Thursday, February 2, 2012

What's all that stuff in the box, dad?

In last week's column, I wrote about the fact that we'll be leaving soon for our beachfront digs in North Carolina. It's an idea that seems increasingly attractive as we receive a steady stream of photos from out there showing folks strolling and shelling, dolphins leaping and splashing, and--wait for it--a really rare sighting of an actual harbor seal basking himself on a nearby beach and looking a lot like me in a similar situation and position.
The move southward will happen soon, though the balmy Illinois weather we've been experiencing almost matches the current Carolina conditions, minus the waves and swells of the Atlantic Ocean and, of course, that seal.
Meanwhile, we've progressed with some of the things that needed to be done before we could depart in all good conscience, though in all honesty, we'll probably never be completely finished with the housekeeping tasks that always linger in the backs of our minds.
Like the everlasting bone of contention we call the basement, an area of concern I also mentioned last week as it was just picking up speed.
"We can't just leave all this stuff for our kids to deal with some day," she said in the sweet, stubborn tone that has always made me want to give her a big hug before pushing her into a mud puddle.
Some of the things almost 40 years of marriage have taught me are that certain chores can't be avoided, some arguments are wholly futile, and that if I ever did push her into a mud puddle, she'd just push me back.
But I just want to let you know that the boxes, bins, bags and baskets down there are slowly--very slowly--receding.
Slowly, in case you didn't notice, is truly the operative word.
I'd like to blame my forebearers, and hers, too, for the piles and piles (and piles and piles) of pictures, letters and documents that must be sorted and anguished over in the arduous pitch-and-save process we suffer through from time to time.
Especially the pictures.
Some historians will tell you that it was photography, not moveable type or the internal combustion engine or even peanut butter, that was the most important invention of the past couple of centuries.
Our ancestors apparently agreed, as they took pictures of just about everyone and everything in sight. They apparently didn't feel, however, that the art of writing was nearly as important, as virtually none of the photos we sifted through had a name, date, place or any other identifying indicator.
But I can't just blame them. I, too, was a fairly ardent amateur photographer back in the day, with a pretty nifty 35mm camera outfit that included bunches of extra lenses and filters and other photo-geek accouterments. Heck, I even had my own darkroom once upon a time, where I churned out an endless stream of pics depicting trees, dogs, cars, lakes, mountains and virtually every move, cute or otherwise, that our two sons made before the age of three. Add to that the towering mound of report cards, hand-made Mother's Day cards, crayoned refrigerator art, school essays and other invaluable treasures awaiting us, and you begin to get the picture.
But we dug and dreamed and sorted and mournfully pitched in an aggressive distillation process that reduced our holdings by about two-thirds, with even greater reductions ahead as we distribute as much as humanly possible to our hapless children and other unsuspecting family members.
Finally, we were done.
For now.
She vows that she will continue the process of examining, discarding and distributing each and every treasure trove. I'm hoping I'll get lucky and slip into a coma before I have to look at one more dusty document or fuzzy photo. I don't think we've uncovered anything of any interest to Antiques Roadshow, Pawn Stars or even the American Pickers yet, though the pickers are hereby invited to come down and take a look.
Meanwhile, we are beginning to share the wealth.
Last weekend, we made a quick run to son Colin's house in northwestern Minnesota, near the Red River of the North and the great plains that stretch westward from Fargo.
We came bearing gifts.
We brought Kitchen Cooked potato chips, bread from the Bishop HIll bakery and even a snowblower to help fight the blizzards that haven't arrived up there, either.
Oh, and one more thing.
A large plastic tub, filled to the brim with the first installment of his inheritance, so to speak.
"So, what's all that stuff in the box, dad?" he asked.
I just smiled.
Tag, you're it.

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