"There are three things that last: faith, hope and junk, and the greatest of these is junk." - Bible, I Corinthians 13:13 (slightly paraphrased)
Unlike the people I live with, I’m not burdened by the pack-rat gene. Accordingly, when they give me unopened 12 year old bottles of vitamins, crochet needles and yarn that’s older than I am (I don’t crochet) or that moldering stack of National Geographic magazines from the Fabulous Fifties, I can manage to throw the stuff away without a qualm.
We share a dirty little secret. They give their junk to me because they cannot bear to toss it out themselves, whereas I’m an unsentimental fool. Unlike them, I can throw away every single generic birthday card they’ve ever sent me (cold-hearted bitch that I am) as soon as they leave the room they entered to deliver said cards. I’m pretty sure they know I take out their metaphorical trash, but at least they’re spared from discarding the untold treasures buried beneath Grandma’s old Mothers Day Cards inside the cardboard grocery carton of Velveeta Cheese, with smashed corners repaired by curling duct tape. One box has a scrawl in spare red crayon: Household. I assume that if I say “Hhmmmm (pause) Household” in a soft, ponderous voice, while slowly scratching an imaginary goatee, and letting my voice trail off into a whisper, that the contents of this mysterious box will magically be revealed.
If cleanliness is next to godliness, then pack rats are the devil incarnate. There’s Satan, crouching deep inside their souls, amid unlabeled packing boxes, stacked and teetering, plastic bags with old bedspreads, and old shoeboxes of candles from celebrations past, melted into a single ur-candle of indeterminate shape and color, but with some old newsprint transferred to one surface. My theory about the mutant candle is that individual candles tend to meld together in some process of devolution that takes place only during dark nights of the closet’s soul: resistance is futile. Either that, or the metal roof of the shed conducts too much summer heat to expect candles to survive intact. But I’m no scientist.
Way back in Holy Christ Elementary School, I learned that there are three things that can survive the direct blast of nuclear bomb: cockroaches, disposed-of disposable baby diapers, and Velveeta, the processed cheesoid material sold in brick-sized lumps whose cartons seem to constitute the majority of the boxes in one section of one junk room. (Actually, I made that up. I don’t think disposable diapers were invented until after I was expelled from high school for passing out Bola Cola from the tailgate of my boyfriend’s station wagon outside the front gates of the school, because the principal, peering out from between bushes, had mistaken it for beer. In that brief moment, my hopes of being the only person canonized as a saint before dying went up in smoke. But that’s another story, as is the reason why I also lost all hope of wining the Nobel Prize in Diplomacy that day. Interestingly, they’re the same story, but that’s not important now.)
Getting back to trash: my spring cleaning fantasy is that we rent a giant sized dumpster, park it by the front door, and make about a hundred round trips between the junk rooms… (Yes you heard me – not only do we have junk closets (plural), junk outdoor sheds (plural) and junk piles in various and sundry rooms we occupy, we have - not one - but two entire rooms filled with junk.) …to make as many trips with a wheelbarrow between junk piles and dumpster as my stamina permits. Tolerance of other people is all well and good, but I’m developing serious intolerance of other people’s junk.
Lest you think I think I’m perfect, I too, have a heroic fatal flaw. Unlike junk, I have trouble leaving books and other written information behind. This might be the death of me since, as my sister recently told me, in these days of information overload, the pursuit of knowledge is less about a process of acquisition than about proficiency in tossing stuff out. But I'd rather die of information overload than from a concussion sustained by a falling stack of Velveeta cartons filled with mutant candles.
Clearly the recent rainy weather has left me with a bad case of cabin fever. At least in the yard, I’m in charge and junk is tolerated only so long as it amuses me and not a moment longer. I can’t wait to get back outside.