The experience of mucking out the garage qualified me to help my friend, Marcia, with the process of sorting through the cavernous workshop her father had built 30 years before his death. Her 87-year old mother, Doris, had sold the property and was being forced to downsize.
I arrived on a Saturday morning to find Doris sitting on a plastic molded chair in the middle of a warehouse of boxes, lumber, furniture, tools, model airplanes, and building materials. In front of her was an open box from which she pulled a wrapped object.
Marcia was chucking cardboard, lumber, sheets of plastic, and various whatnot outside the open roll top doors while her husband, Jerry, sorted and stacked.
Marcia whispered, “She admires everything she unwraps. This is going to take forever.” Louder, she said, “What do you want to do with it, Mother? Keep it or put it in the garage sale?”
“I certainly don’t want to give it away,” Doris said. “This is crystal.”
I silently lusted after the bowl. I have an obsession for bowls and chairs. If left untethered, my house would be filled with them.
Doris pondered the bowl’s beauty for a few moments before holding it out to me. “Would you like it?”
I felt guilty—as if by telepathy I’d hypnotized her into the offering. I thanked her and snatched it away before she could change her mind.
Before I continue, I must make a disclaimer similar to the one I was forced into when I had teenagers. Until I was a parent of that age group, I judged others by the behavior of their teens. After my kids became that age, I had to mix a bitter cocktail of my ignorant words and chug it, thus ending those days of judgment.
Current Disclaimer: A person who finds 85 cans of paint hoarded in her garage cannot judge the contents of another person’s storage area.
That being said, here are some of the interesting things Doris discovered in her boxes:
Ten three-ring binders holding sheets of poetry. Over several decades, whenever she found a poem she liked, she’d type it and store it in a binder. She rarely read the poems again. She took comfort in knowing she had them saved for posterity.
Four large recipe boxes filled with 3×5 cards of typed recipes. The largest box was marked, Recipes I Haven’t Tried Yet.
Dozens of wire hangers embellished with crochet. Doris admitted she has far more of these than she had clothes to hang them on, but she was unwilling to part with a single one.
The best find of the day was when Doris opened a box containing at least 15 spiral notebooks. She placed her fingertips to her lips and giggled. I was intrigued. What had this pure, dearest of ladies uncovered to embarrass her?
We’d already discovered a 1939 edition of “Marriage and Sex” that she’d purchased shortly before her marriage. This hadn’t raised a blush to her cheeks.
Marcia and I anxiously looked over her shoulder as she opened one of the notebooks. There, in perfect penmanship, on narrow line after line, margin to margin, front and back of each page was—
Marcia howled with laughter. “I didn’t know you were doing that.”
“She didn’t drink or smoke,” I said. “What else was she supposed to do to stay sane with three kids running around?”
Young mothers, take note. There are other ways to relax while raising young children besides sucking vodka through the straw of a juice box (“No, honey, the Berry Blast is mine; you get the strawberry.”), smoking pot behind a bush in the back yard, or saying you’re taking a vitamin when it’s really the dog’s pain medication.
Buy some spiral notebooks and start copying the Bible. It worked for Doris.