Dearest Rachel –
As Jan and I move from room to room in our cleaning efforts, we’re starting to get into places where the trash is tangled up with the treasures. Notes and nothings mingle together, and aside from the sanctum sanctorum that is our bedroom, nowhere is more complicated in this respect than the sunroom.
I’ve been working over time to clear the piles in here – I’ve bagged up some fifteen to twenty garbage bags of clothing to take to the folks house as a staging area for Pacific Garden Mission, where these dresses and pants and culottes and blouses ought to find themselves a good home, or at least one in which they would be appreciated, regardless of my sister’s insistance that so much of what you wore was hopelessly out of style.
But I’ve been going through the piles gradually, taking a little bit here and a little bit there, like a gentle rain shower. Whereas, when Typhoon Jan gets going, it’s a whole different kind of storm. Everything must go, one way or another.
The nice thing about having the basement cleared at this point is that at least certain categories of material can be spared a bagging. She doesn’t bother to touch media of any sort, be it cassettes, CDs, VHS tapes, DVDs or any type of computer-related paraphernalia. It all goes downstairs onto one shelf in the basement or another, for me to eventually get to and dispose of on my own time as I see fit. Books, she checks with me about: keep or donate? Legos now have their own bookcase – I say ‘now,’ but we’ve had that piece of furniture for years; it’s just that we can actually access it now. Other toys get referred to Daniel to determine their fate.
And yes, he’s starting to get involved with the process, albeit as much out of necessity than anything else. Better that he speak up about something than have me shrug and her discard it.
Which in some cases, can be a near run thing. She was about to through out a frayed old backpack, chock full of old schoolwork. But I called Daniel over to go through it, and sure enough, there were a fair number of pages that he’d drawn on that he could salvage for his own memorabilia file. Indeed, he kind of curled up on the couch to go through everything meticulously, as we continued our efforts.
The thing is, Jan doesn’t seem to notice what’s not in her path. If it’s not directly part of the task at hand, in might as well not exist. That’s fine for jobs requiring discretion, but it does run the danger of missing certain things that would otherwise seem obvious. Upon seeing the sketches he pulled from the pile in the backpack, she seemed surprised by his ability. I had to point out the (rather large) artwork behind her.
At which point, Daniel went on to explain its whole provenance: an art assignment from Harper College requiring an ambiguous rendering of a children’s coloring book illustration. Naturally, he chose a book that had My Little Pony characters. And the colored charcoal drawing includes touches like Spike’s crest in the lower right tangled with Rarity’s curls, blends of hooves and horns along with the fairly straightfoward mane of Twilight Sparkle near the top.
She was impressed.
And now she understood why we couldn’t just toss the entire backpack’s worth of material. Yes, the schoolwork was nothing worthwhile, but the artwork was another matter.
The same goes for all the bulletins you saved, for whatever reason. I can’t even remember why: were you going to put them in the recycling bin, or had you planned to burn them when you got them home, and never got around to it? I’m never quite sure. For what it’s worth, it was a good thing that you did everything in purple ink: it made everything that was truly yours stand out so we know not to get rid of it.
And I’ve said it before, it’s good to see all these notes left behind. It’s not like hearing your voice or seeing your face, but it’s something. It’s a lot more than I would have left for you to find (assuming you and Daniel would have bothered to look for any of it) – although we did find a fairly full notebook with my own observations in it at one point.
But there are a few things that I’ve found where I wish I had a little bit more from you. For instance, there was one bulletin that name-checked that scene in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that encouraged the reader to visualize what the four most important people in your life might say about you at your funeral. All three copies you’d somehow saved were blank. Mine and Daniel’s wouldn’t have been surprising, but the lack of comment on yours seems unusual… and sad, in a way. It would have been nice to see what you might have expected, and how it stacked up against what we actually said. I’d like to think we did you justice, and while some of what was said couldn’t have been predicted, based on how you passed as opposed to how we both would have expected you to (of old age, pushing ninety, somewhat dotty but still full of energy for your age), I wonder if what was actually said might have been something of a pleasant surprise.
We’ll never know, though.
And so, on that bittersweet note, here’s the progress that was made today on the sunroom:
So we now have a lot more actual room in the sunroom. And this is still only half the job to do:
Wish us luck, honey: we continue this saga on Friday.
And… I hope you can forgive us our presumption.