31 Aug My parents’ stuff
I remember thinking, when I saw footage of the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan, how crazy it was that a disaster could turn houses, libraries, schools, museums, cars, people, into debris floating in the ocean.
After Hurricane Katrina, my friend Emma went to help and photographed some of the destruction and wrote something about how someone’s childhood dolls were just strewn in the rubble.
It’s a jarring reminder that there is nature, and there is stuff. And disaster turns items from useful and beloved into stuff. Something to clean up. Debris. Trash.
My parents are moving from my childhood home in Killington to their lakehouse in Poultney this fall. My sister and I are helping them downsize.
I have a third baby on the way, my father was recently diagnosed with some kind of movement disorder, and none of us are getting any younger or healthier from here. So there is this time crunch of clearing out.
And this weekend we are having a yard sale. My parents have been filling a garage with things that will need to go. Things they have lovingly collected over the years. Memories, attachments, plans never carried out, well loved items. Crafts to do someday. Furniture my mom has refinished and proudly displayed in our house. Paintings that hung in our house for years. My dad’s tools that paid for raising a family when paired with hard work, honesty and skill.
Now it’s stuff.
“That’s all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That’s all your house is- a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody’s got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff.”
— George Carlin
It’s one thing when you have your own yard sale. You see someone walk off with a leaf blower you never used that you got at a different yard sale a couple of years ago and wish them well.
But it’s quite another to see ancient relics of your memories piled up like any other table of stuff on the side of the road . The lamp that was in my parents’ bedroom in the 90’s. The antique desk I did my homework at in elementary school. My mom’s yarn basket. The piece of wood I wanted to finish into a coffee table for me and my boyfriend from 15 years ago.
But here we are. Forward motion is not just a good thing, it’s essential. Things change. Our need for these particular items has changed. We are letting go, in order to move on. My grandmother Mimi likes to reference the phrase necessary losses; a book by Judith Viorst.
If you hold on, you are stuck. If you let go, you can grow. And I am grateful that we get to do the process together, as a family, now and not after a tragedy. Some people have to do this processing of stuff alone, when they are grieving. Our process not easy, but it’s voluntary and deliberate, and we are working on it together as the complete Austin nuclear family. I am filled with thankfulness for that.
If you want some of my our stuff (and a lot of it is really good stuff!) come by our sale this weekend. Saturday and Sunday, September 2 & 3, 2017, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 3609 River Road in Killington, Vermont.