Wednesday, March 19, 2014
There is nothing like looking at colleges with three daughters and burying two parents to make you think about the things you are left with. The things left behind.
Maybe that's why I've been reading so obsessively about the Minimalism movement. That, and the fact that I grew up in a spare modern little house where everything was put away and organized. (Even my books were alphabetized.) But add in a husband who grew up in the opposite way -- where nothing was thrown away -- where tag sales were frequented and inherited objects were cherished and the garage, basement and attic were chock-full of bargains that someone might need some day. Add in children and toys and teenagers and prom dresses.
Despite two massive, orchestrated, order-a-dumpster cleanups, stuff is creeping back in.
Although I make pilgrimages to Goodwill throughout the year, I decided to challenge myself to get rid of more. I do this while my husband is out of town so he doesn't hyperventilate at the thought of parting with a chipped coffee mug. This has led to some interesting self-examination: Do we need more than 5 vases? Am I poised to take up gardening? Do I aspire to becoming a professional flower organizer?
Another project was culling my wardrobe. I chose things I wear everyday, and a few nice things I should wear and don't (would it kill me to wear a skirt?) -- hid the off season stuff, then gave the rest away. So now all I do is look in one 18" span, and grab. Everything in there seems to go together. And go together in ways I never thought of.
And proof that I am obsessed with gray, blue and purple.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
When I was young and struggling, I owned a car that was struggling too. A faded red VW Beetle, a car with smiling curves and winking headlights that despite its rust, radiated cheer and light. A car that wasn't really meant to hold up to a Midwestern winter.
Every winter night I parked it at the top of a sloping snowy hill, and hurried down to the house I shared with 4 roommates. And every morning I got up and ran four or five miles through the icy streets, getting in my workout, knowing if my hair froze at the edge of my hat, my car would not start. Again.
I sometimes think I started running that year just so I could find a way to stay warm.
I would come home, shower, change clothes. Then head up the hill, where I sprayed the door lock with de-icer, lowered the brake, and jumpstarted the battery by letting it roll downhill and catch. My battery, dead every morning, yet brought back to life by gravity every day.
I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say my roommates and I did this for perhaps 40 days in a row one winter. I couldn't afford a new car. I couldn't afford a new battery. I couldn't afford to live somewhere with a garage. And so, our cars froze.
This winter, when it seems to have snowed on the East Coast every other day for months, I am reminded of that winter in Illinois. I am reminded of how cold I was growing up there, how my eyelashes crystallized if I dared to cry, how my knees looked blue when I pulled off my tights, how I would walk home from ice skating at the pond without being able to feel my toes.
I am reminded of the snow drifts so high and so heavy, you couldn't open your front door. My father had to jump out a second floor window to get out to shovel snow.
And, most importantly, I am reminded how my roommates helped me with my car, teaching me that technique. And I remember that when I was out jogging in the worst weather, I would spend half my time pushing cars out of snow drifts when they got stuck.
You can hate winter all you want. But you can't ignore it. Like a toddler throwing a tantrum, it forces you to pay attention. Deal with me, it says. It will build character. It will help you help each other.