By Barbara Falconer Newhall
The trouble with painting the inside of your closets is — everything has to come out of them.
And then what do you do with all your beloved stuff?
If you’re me, you don’t throw it away.
But what if your beloved stuff is in disarray?
What if your Girl Scout merit badges are mixed in with the portrait of your father’s high school football team and your mother’s baby photos and an old World War II ration book?
If you’re me, you want to impose some order on all your wonderful old belongings. And on your past while you’re at it.
Which takes time. Lots of it.
As a result, ever since we painted the interior of our house last year, all the good stuff I pulled out of our closets has been sprawled around my writing room, taking up space, waiting to be sorted and put away.
Twenty-eight cartons of it. Calling to me.
Finally, yesterday, I did it. I organized my beloved stuff — and my rather extensive past — into twelve tidy, carefully labeled business boxes.
“High School Stuff.” A corsage from a high school boyfriend, dried and flattened. My biology class insect collection with butterflies and beetles stuck through with pins. The note from my social studies teacher, “You talk too much.”
“Grandma Falconer.” My great-grandmother’s speech to the Michigan Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
“My year in Heidelberg.” Coasters from a Bier Stube. Train tickets to Paris and Moscow. A telegram from my parents asking why I hadn’t written in two weeks.
The boxes go on: My years growing up in Detroit. As a twenty-something in New York City. As a hippie in San Francisco. As a respectable, hardworking mom. Everything in a box. Everything in its place.
And nothing, nothing at all, in the trash.