Dichotomy

Laundry is finished, dinner has been eaten, dishes done.  Too early to start worrying about Monday morning yet; it is the end of a beautiful, packed-full weekend.

It was a weekend full of dichotomies: happiness and sadness, busy-ness and time for reflection, excess and….minimalism.  Let me explain.

My sister and brother in law are starting a brand new adventure, and, while that is their story to tell, it involves getting rid of literally almost everything they own. Everything. And they own a lot, as do we all. As I’ll explain my sources in a minute, the average household has 300,000 items in it – yes, three hundred thousand. They had not moved in 20 years, so I’m pretty sure they had more than that, especially considering my sister has kept every item of clothing, from the 1960’s on, that she has ever bought.  So let’s say they have 500,000 items in their home, and they are getting rid of it all.  What an undertaking! I am so jealous.

Or, I was until she called me up and offered me anything I want to come and get.  Because I have a daughter about to graduate and become all adulty, and a son who is about to move into a new place, we agreed that they could benefit, and start lives with stuff better than the cinder blocks and 2×4’s that all young people should start out with.  So Bruce rented a trailer, and we drove both the truck and my car down to Houston, to help empty the house of some of the 500,000 items.

Here is where the dichotomies start to kick in.  On the way down, I was listening to The Minimalists podcasts.  These guys are the gurus of the Minimalist Movement, and I recommend their podcasts to everyone – they are funny, intelligent, and thought provoking. They are my source for the #300,000 estimate. So I was tooling down the road, listening to all the reasons to get rid of stuff, on my way to pick up stuff. Lots of stuff.

Seeing my sister always, always, always fills me with joy.  We have one of the closest-knit families I know of, and, even though we don’t see each other that often, maybe 3 times a year, it’s usually in the middle, at my brother’s house. So I don’t get to Houston that often, and, every time I go, I am reminded why. Houston sucks. That isn’t being ugly, that’s just the truth. Seeing her and my brother in law this time, as usual, made me so happy, but I was also trying not to cry for a majority of the time, because she is moving far away, and I don’t like it.  I’ll probably see her about as often (gotta love fly miles!), but it’s the knowledge that she isn’t in Texas anymore is what is making me sad, I think. I knew that if I started crying, she would start crying, so I looked up at the sky a lot, to make the tears run back into my head (this was a trick we used when our dad called us into the office when we were in trouble.  He hated it when we cried, so we would look up at the ceiling so the tears wouldn’t run down our faces. He probably had no idea what the hell we were doing, and it didn’t matter – we were in trouble, and he was going to tell us why and how we were going to improve. Immediately).

Bruce rented a 12′ trailer, and, as I looked at the trailer, and looked at all the items I had “claimed” in the name of my kids, I knew it was not going to all fit. And said so, repeatedly and loudly. My husband looked at me with derision in his eye, and said something along the lines of “Hush, woman, you have no idea what you are talking about” (he would NEVER actually say those words. He values his life too much – but I could tell he was thinking it), and proceeded to prove me wrong, which, I’m sure, brought him a tiny bit of joy, as well.  He and my brother in law were BEASTS.  They, in the hot Texas sun, in the cloying Houston humidity, loaded, in the truck interior, the truck bed and the trailer: A refrigerator, a washer and dryer, a baker’s rack, a full rolling toolbox, an antique dresser, a huge wooden bar, 2 bar stools, 2 chain saws, 2 couches, 2 glass-topped tables, a hedge trimmer, a child’s rocking chair, all the lawn ornaments you could possibly want or need, a wind chime that is loud enough and large enough to be used in a church bell tower, a bazillion-foot extension cord on a hose reel (how clever is that?!), and then packed all the nooks and crannies with more essential stuff. Meanwhile, my sister and I loaded my car with an antique lamp and a small cabinet. And we had to rest afterwards.  We did get a few things packed inside (inside the house in the air conditioning, I mean).  At the end of the day, after we had finished loading up, after Goodwill had come and gone, and a friend had come to get the bedroom suite, there was a small dent in the number of items to be culled, and we ate a take out meal and had some adult bevs.  The evening cooled down, and we were able to laugh, and talk, and tell stories on the back patio, as our old, sad bodies all seized up, leaving us almost unable to get up to go set up the air mattresses.  Or that could have been the wine. Hard to tell.

I will say that when I woke up the next morning, I literally had to crawl from the air mattress to the bathroom to find something to hang on to so I could stand up. Getting old is hell.

Sister and I blew up the mattresses, and then, having no more energy, laid down on them “to test them out,” and just talked.  As we often do, talk turned to our parents, and she said something, I wish I could remember what, and then spoke to the heavens “Mom, are you listening??” We cracked up.

The next morning, we rolled out looking like the Clampetts, only needing Granny in a rocking chair on the top of the truck to complete the scene. The drive was a little longer going home, with the load on the trailer and in the cars, and, again, I listened to The Minimalist podcasts.  Having seen all the stuff that was in that house, that had to be sorted through, thrown out, given away, sold, and the remaining packed up, minimalism was sounding better and better – except I was going home with enough stuff to fill our garage, once we got it all unloaded.

My weekend in a nutshell: happy to see my family, sad to see them move. Excited for their new opportunity, wanting everything to stay the same, always. Bruce was right, and I was wrong. Stocking up for the kids, kids nowhere to be found. Listening to about 8 hours of minimalism, spending about 8 hours acquiring a butt-tonnage of possessions.

Finally, one of the pieces I am keeping for myself, at least for a little while. My mom had it hanging outside her back door, then my sister did, and now Bruce has hung it up for me outside of ours. It’s simple, but brings me joy.

I hope you have a grand week, in every way.

6 thoughts on “Dichotomy”

  1. Wonderful AP. Wish I had been there, glad you have the piece hanging on your patio. I don’t like the distance either. Sad tonight.

  2. Thanks for not mentioning my superficial cleaning techniques. I’m so glad you (your kids?) can use some of our treasures.

  3. As always, great post. Go with the minimalist strategy now. Later in the game is exhausting, even with the help of awesome family.

  4. Oh Ann. Annie. Annie Annie Annie. I laughed, I cried, I had my own little dichotomy going on, but, unfortunately, I’m sitting at my desk at work and need to get my tears dried before anyone else gets here. (No one here knows I actually have a heart. Story for another time.) Anyway, the whole recap of the weekend broke my heart, as I, too, come from a very close family to whom I have said goodbye WAY too many times — to the point I now can’t say goodbye to ANYone without getting choked up. Imagine how surprised my Xfinity repair guy was after tweaking my cable system then seeing a twinkle of a tear in my eye as he left my apartment. But I digress. I feel your sadness for your sister and brother-in-law leaving Texas, but I relish the idea that I’m kind of the beneficiary of the move. Now, instead of being, what, a four-hour flight away from my BFF?, I’ll be a three-hour-and-twenty-minute drive away from her and my favorite BFF-in-law. At the moment, having just read your blog, I feel a little guilty about feeling so happy, but I’ll get over it. And so will you. Hang in there, my friend. You know full well that, while absence makes the heart grow fonder, it also makes it tougher to visit and have those precious moments hanging out on an air mattress and reminiscing. What could possibly be better than that? But what BFF and I have learned over the many years of being apart is the art of texting can provide ALMOST as good a giggle session as though we were sitting in the same room. Not quite the same, of course, but a great substitute until those nearly-sacred visits happen. Buck up buddy. I’ll keep her in the best hands I can provide on my own sacred visits. Aw, damn. Here come those glistening eyes again….

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