Whenever family or friends want to chuck old, unwanted clutter, I am often the one that will take their discards. Much of my home is dotted with stuff that no one else wants.
It is often the story behind that old, chipped china teacup, that’s missing its saucer, the tattered, and faded flag from World War II, or a mottled, cracked, ornate antique mirror frame (no mirror attached) from the 1920s, that draws me in. That red bowl of 50 (or more), 50-year-old (or older), candles, pictured above? My good friend talked me into buying them for two bucks at an estate sale of a deceased candle-lover.
But since my moving into a smaller space is fast-approaching, my role as a taker has reversed. I’m forced to go through the drawers, closets, corners, cabinets, boxes, basement, attic, and every room in my house, to decide what to take, and what to toss.
First, I made piles. Piles for donations. Piles of offerings for friends. Piles of the beloved family relics, including every piece of artwork, the cards, and even the still-sticky mementos that I’ve kept in a cedar chest from my kids’ lives. And I’m impressed with how ruthless a tosser I can be, under pressure (I junked the old, red Radio Flyer!), to the junk pile in my backyard that will eventually be out of any future piles because it will be hauled away by a dumpster. The heap is blossoming by the day, right alongside my daffodils.
And then there are the piles of indecisions. The why-keeps? Misfits, to some extent, all of them. Some are ancient, some are broken, but all are the stuff of stories:
The chair that my family bought me for Mother’s Day, way back when my kids saw me as a queen, worthy of a throne. It’s gold, with a crown at the top. But it is a bad, pretty much deadly chair, therefore it has forever been banished to a corner so no one will ever sit in it. To sit back in that chair, is to fall backwards with a head crack to the floor.
There’s the sconce from the 1940s, that I took from an old, art-deco apartment building that I lived in, in the 1980s (the most untamed time of my life), where it had graced the walls for years before I was even born.
When I moved, I pulled it out of the wall, and the all wires stayed in the wall. It can never be turned on. But it’s hanging on a nail right inside my front door, as if it has power. It reminds me of those days of playing Backgammon by its dim light with people I lived with, and came to love. And it’s also a bitter reminder that I stole it! I maimed, and forever destroyed, not only the wall that it was born on, but an integral part of the story of that building’s beginnings.
There’s the tarnished copper, basin-thing, that I found in the garbage somewhere when I was in college. It housed my schefflera tree, dubbed “Alfred II.” Alfred II lived in this pot for over 10 years (“Alfred I” lived for 20 years), and traveled with me until he died. I believe he froze to death by the avalanche of snow that stormed the apartment (the one that I stole from) because we left the balcony door open in a blizzard.
My Frye boots – dusty, scuffed, bent and smelly. These were actually very close to topping the dumpster pile, but I recently saw the exact same ones in an antique store. I’m embracing the beauty that I knew and wore them when they were new, and now they’re old enough, and worthy enough, to be antique.
And as for that bowl of old candles. I’m keeping them – just because. I’ve lit a few, but since some of them look to be older than me, they’ve earned a reprieve from death by fire. As a whole, these candles must have a story, because the family of the deceased candle-lover, chose not to toss them, but instead pile them lovingly in a big box, in the hopes of passing them on.