ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY:   Cleaning up

© Another Day in the Country

It seems at this time in my life that I am destined to do a lot of cleaning up, clearing out, and throwing away. Things accumulate through the years. If nothing else, we should be cleaning stuff up for the next generation. Not fair to leave it to them!

Maybe it’s the season, but once again in the fall of the year (and of life) my sister and I are cleaning up stuff. Aunt Gertie used to say that fall weather gave her the energy to tackle difficult projects, stuff you’d procrastinated doing all summer, for instance. So it’s in the fall that we’re emptying out the last of the stuff in the old bank building in Ramona. For quite a few years we had our office and the Dirt Gambler’s Museum in that old building.

The building has always been far from perfect, but it worked. Built in the 1930s, it was comparatively young on Ramona’s Main Street, looking almost modern. By the time we came back to town it had long since “seen it’s day,” so to speak. “What do you think about taking on the upkeep of this old building?” I asked TTT, when it was offered to us. He shrugged.

“Well, if it gets too bad we can always just dig a hole and push it in,” he said with a grin. He loved digging holes and demolishing stuff, so it didn’t seem like a big deal to him. Without him, now, it seems like a really big deal!

In the midst of our dismay about the building that needed more repair than we could afford, we started the cleaning-up process, the dismantling ordeal that is not nearly as much fun as the thrill of creation in the beginning. We moved old historic pictures over to the senior center in town. We took displays out to the old church that our friend Jay was restoring. We gave things away to museums, and back to families, even our own. And now we are down to the last of the accumulation — the books, the art supplies, the empty frames.

Whenever you are cleaning up, there is a certain amount of sadness. I’m not talking about vacuuming the house or doing the dishes; I’m talking about going through your own accumulation of memorabilia! It’s the boxes of pictures that you never got put into an album. It’s the coffee table books that you no longer look at and the spray paint you were going to use to redo those chairs. There’s grieving as you sort and throw away because there’s a reason that you’re cleaning up.

For me, the grieving was about letting go of all the old stuff that I’d once displayed with such joy in the museum. It’s the finality of admitting that I didn’t accomplish what I really wanted to do and I was never going to be able to do it. Give it up, Pat. Lay that dream down.

In our cleaning up we came across a whole carton of shadow boxes that I’d bought “on sale” with the idea of putting together displays for the museum. I’d collected and saved things from old cuff links to 1930s magazines, old cosmetics to lace handkerchiefs. In the midst of grieving what I hadn’t done, my sister said, “Why don’t you put some of these together?” Really? Could I still give these things another life? Would they still be useful, beautiful, memorable, filled with joy — even joy just for the chance to create? Where would I put them?

So, right in the middle of the cleaning, sorting, throwing away day, I stopped and filled one shadow box with memories of my dad: his picture, his harmonica, a little basketball trophy, a grade card, his knife. Blessings on cleaning up! I’d found all these important little pieces in the process and created something new! Six shadow boxes later, I went back to the tedium of throwing away and organizing while the fun I’d had making something new energized my spirit.

I called my daughter and said, “Well, I’ve been making shadow boxes. They are so darn cute but I want you to know that someday when I’m gone and you run across them, don’t feel guilty about getting rid of them. You can just auction them off with the lot.” I didn’t want her thinking, “Oh, no, something else that Mom made so we’d better keep it!”

It’s another day in the country and thanks to the cleaning up and letting go, something new has happened. It’s sort of exciting. Who knows what I might find in that next box of stuff?

 

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