The planning continues and the work goes on. Mike is about halfway through the renos to the downstairs bathroom, so another week or two should do it. A bit of cosmetic work to the outside of the house, and it will be time to find an agent and put the house up for sale. Fingers crossed.
In the meantime, I’m rummaging through closets, cabinets, bookshelves and more, trying to scale down, sell, donate or throw out the massive amount of belongings one can collect over twenty-five odd years. Transferring living space from around 2400 to 112 square feet definitely has its challenges. And trying to prioritize what to make room for isn’t easy.
I tend to get emotionally attached to things. Sometimes to the point where I’m sure it isn’t healthy anymore. But it usually has more to do with where the object came from than the object itself. There will be a special significance, such as the person who owned it, or a particular event associated with it.
For example, I have my mom’s Blackwatch Tartan kilt.
Dad bought it for her when they were dating, and he was stationed in Gagetown. It must weigh close to ten pounds. Will I ever wear/use it? No. Do I have room for it? No. What will I do with it? No idea. But it’s important to me, because it was Mom’s.
I have a full-length oval free-standing mirror. It was a Christmas present from my Dad, for what turned out to be his last Christmas. He bought it for me because he heard me say once that I’d always wanted one. It’s beautiful, but something less than useless in a travel trailer. Can I take it with me? No. Can I bear to get rid of it? I’m not sure.
Tucked away in my jewelery box is my grandfather’s harmonica.
Can I play a harmonica? No. Will I ever learn to play a harmonica? Doubtful. So why hang onto it? Because it was his, and I loved to listen to him play.
So this is my dilemma. I’m trying (really trying) to pare down this mountain of stuff. But around every corner is another memory, another wave of nostalgia, another trigger to slow me down and make me wade through an emotional quagmire.
This week was particularly rough as I set out to sort and organize my insane amount of photographs. To make things even worse (mostly due to my overdeveloped talent for procrastination), I had also inherited both my parents and grandparents photo collections that I had never organized. For 5 solid days, I sorted, picked doubles, and tossed out picture after picture.
Throwing a photo away is an incredibly difficult thing. A lot of Mom’s photos and most of my grandmother’s were from years before I was born. And while I can certainly pick out individuals like my grandparents or aunts and uncles, a large number of shots contained people I just didn’t recognize. It kills me to throw away a photo as I’m always wondering if there isn’t someone out there who would like to have it. But who do you ask when you don’t even know who the person is in the snapshot?
Sorting was somewhat easier. I wasn’t throwing photos away, just re-homing them. For instance, I know that since he’s been away for over twenty years, my brother doesn’t have many later photos of our parents. There’s a pile for him.
Several black and whites of my grandparents, all similar to shots I already have. Younger photos of my aunt/godmother. There’s a pile for my cousin Squirt.
A large amount of my mom’s brother as a boy and as a young father. There’s a pile for my western cousins.
Baby photos of my youngest brother, who no longer lives nearby. Even though we’re not close, I can’t imagine not having a photo of yourself as a baby/child. There’s a pile for him as well.
Then there’s mine. Mike and I as kids, teens, dating, wedding shots. Breckan and Riley as babies, toddlers, starting school, teens and young adults. Our beloved Gypsy and Twister. The house itself, and all the changes we’ve put it through in the last twenty years.
Obviously, this pile will not be discarded. But it did need to be pared down to a manageable size so that it can be stored. So it was still tough deciding what went and what stayed, even if it was a blurred photo, or someone blinked/moved at just the wrong time, or no flash, and so on.
But by far and away, the hardest part was just dealing with the emotions and reliving the memories as I went through the shots. It’s sometimes surreal, to look back and realize how many loved ones are no longer there after such a long time. Or how our lives have changed so drastically. All the tiny, subtle alterations that we really don’t notice as they happen, but looking back, add up to such a momentous difference.
So, after almost a week, and feeling like I’d been used as an emotional punching bag, it suddenly dawned on me. It isn’t the things I’m worried about missing. It’s the memories. At the end of the day, it’s only the memories that we take with us. And that’s the best part. I have room for every single one of them, plus many, many more.
And that’s why Mike and I are doing this grand adventure. We want to see it all while we’re still young enough to enjoy it and remember it. It certainly won’t make us financially independent. But the memories and experiences we’ll collect will make us rich beyond the dreams of avarice. And after all is said and done, what more could you ask for?
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