Green and grey and blue bins are piled high into the cobwebbed corners of a muggy basement. Truckloads drive some away every so often. She sits in a faded chair, hands on her knees, lips puckered, staring at the grey-green sea of bins; memories and dreams that hadn’t happened for her yet are being divided and conquered and sent away to belong to someone else or be buried in a dumpster.
She was going to have a showroom, you know. She was going to cut and paste and weave and make her wreaths and sell her home goods. That’s why she bought the big house for one, the house with the big basement and the side hall with the low swinging chandeliers. They’d been married for 34 years, but then he was gone, and she was going to buy a house with a showroom.
Every so often, someone finds a bin full of his things. We all take a break to look at the lost treasures. I find a bin full of photos from when I was only five; there’s one with my uncle who’s been gone for almost three Octobers now; he’s holding me, and my eyes are still blue, and I notice the freckles on his face. I forgot that he had freckles on his face.
I wonder if her son’s freckles and her husband’s old things are why she has so many bins now.
As I tucked the photo of my uncle and I away into a pile of things that I would like to keep, I imagine I’d do the same as she has.
Wouldn’t we all? Haven’t I already?
Surely there have been corners of myself filled with bins stacked high, memories and hopes that I hadn’t figured out how to sort away with. Even now, aren’t there some parts of me that don’t know what to do with the things I’ve held onto over the years.
She has bins labeled, “Christmas glasses,” and “Easter pillows,” and “Halloween houses.” We’re there to help her figure out what to keep and what to get rid of. I haven’t seen some of these things in the almost seventeen years that my grandfather has been gone. Yet, I still hear her protest, “No, I should really keep that.” Then comes that part that slows us down, the part where we have to all really talk it out with her about whether or not she’ll actually every use it again:
“This has been in this exact same box for seventeen years.”
“You haven’t touched this in fifteen years, will you ever put it out for Thanksgiving again?”
“Okay, let’s talk about what you’ll do with it if you were to take it out and start using it again.”
And so on and so forth.
Most of the time, she comes to the realization that she hasn’t touched it in so long that she wouldn’t have known if it had gone missing or not and so it’s best to just get rid of it.
And I think of my bins. They are toppling over with things that I have held onto just because I had held onto them so tightly once before.
They’ve got their own kinds of labels written on the side, too. Over the years, I’ve tried to call them something else, tried to dust them off. I’ve brought some out into the light and unpacked them on a blog or in fast cars zooming down the highway or on my mother’s closet floor. Others have been shoved back into the darkest corners, given over to the rats to chew through.
I’m full of secrets, haunts, memories, and hopes, and the truth is — I’m full of some things that I’m not scared of and that I don’t hope for anymore at all. I’m full of things that are taking up space just because I made some space for them in the first place and dubbed them as worth keeping at some point.
And oh, the times I find myself digging through the bins, insisting that I need to keep the things that don’t fit anywhere anymore.
When we first opened the doors of her basement, we barely even had enough room for walking. It’s been two days, and now there’s space to somersault, to play, to run if we wanted, to build and to create and to imagine what could be — there’s space for new things.
A once terrifying reality of emptiness inside myself has now become an overwhelming anticipation of new.
Let it hurt, let it matter, let it go.