Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the basement

My husband hates the work project. No matter how little or large, if it can be classified as a project, it needs to be an active attempt to procrastinate. And when it comes to his house, I let the procrastination rule. If it doesn't cross my radar, I am content to let it be.

We were married for four years until I decided that the garage was ridiculous. Never has my car ever gone in the garage. At one point we had five cars to shuffle and reshuffle in the driveway like a crazy game of who's out first, who's home next. It was crazy with the teen drivers. One day, I opened the garage, could not see the floor, and decided it was bothering me. It bothered me to see the half-empty boxes of madness from his ex. It bothered me to see her handwriting on a box of old shoes labeled blankets. All around the garage was evidence of her mania, her depression, her hoarding, and her chaos. Finally I decided to clean. It took three hours. Just three hours to unload memories but mostly junk-- broken pieces of a broken life. Who needs one shoe or one mitten? Who needs an empty rusted coffee can? Who needs random newspapers, pieces of paper, or boxes and boxes of knotted up yarn? If her mentally ill mind could be represented in a visual, tactile form, it would be the garage. Things stashed. Things saved. No reason. No order. Mislabeled and completely useless. Cover the floors. Pile it up.

When I have a break in work, I am looking for a spot to clean. It's a compulsion to have more order. And it's a hope that filling up the landfill will also clean the house of some dust that is causing me to need allergy shots, meds, air filters, and kleenex. I thought that the basement would be a great place to start. But then the chaos emerged. The disturbed mind dwelled there, too. I should have known. Most normal people stash things in the basements and the garages. Why not her? Should that phone bill have been paid? Is that Bible one that she read? Mice would have had enough used tissues to build their own Hilton. Why was there a suitcase full of papers with four large garbage bags folded up neatly thoughout? Why were there eight tubes of chapstick with her brush and her unopened, never-paid attorney bills? Why would she save empty paint bottles, broken playdough jars, and a baby apple juice from 1989?

After two hours in the basement, I understand why my husband doesn't like the word project. It is a pseudonym for pain, loss, grief, heartache, and memories better left in the dust. Maybe procrastination is not such a bad thing. If my heart broke every time I moved a box, I might not move it either.

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