At no time is this more true than when I am packing with my husband to move once again. I am of the philosophy of let’s get this done, start packing now. He on the other hand believes why do today what you can do an hour before you leave?
The walls in the apartment are closing in, the stacks of boxes are growing taller. Ninety seven percent of these boxes have been packed by me. This morning I bent to lift an accordion folder full of medical records, insurance policies, and automobile information, tweaking my lower back. Work came to a screeching halt, and of course I started nagging. My husband sat in the recliner watching Aerial America.
After much arguing I got him up and into the guest bedroom. In our old house in New Hampshire, the closets were scarce and small. In Florida, we each have our own large walk-in-closet with built-in shelves. His closet is in the guest room.
My husband is a pack rat. Nothing gets thrown away. New T-shirts become work shirts become paint rags. If there is a place called heaven and taking care of Mother Earth by leaving a small carbon footprint is one of the criteria for getting in, my husband is guaranteed admission. He recycles everything and throws nothing away.
My mother was visiting us in New Hampshire one summer and despite my better instincts I brought her out to the barn to show her the kittens. One of two cats we inherited when we bought the house, out of the thirteen the former owner left behind, gave birth to two kittens snuggled in a nest she made at the back of the barn. We named her One Eyed Jack. She had a cloudy left eye and we thought She was a He. When I found her nursing the kittens we changed her name to One Eyed Jackie. The father was clearly Keeper, the sweetest cat out of the feral bunch we inherited. The rest of the brood ended up at the SCPA down the road. We were down to two, then there were four.
My mother grew up in Pawtucket, R.I. across the street from a family named LaForte. Mr Laforte made his living selling things from the ever growing junkyard that was his side yard. Just the sight of it drove my grandparents crazy.
Our barn was full of the detritus of leftovers from remodeling jobs my husband had worked on in wealthy homes near the ocean in Rye, N.H. Bathroom sinks, toilets, kitchen cabinets, a piece of marble from a countertop. “We could use this in our house,” he would say, but we rarely did.
There were three tractors and two snow blowers that cobbled together barely mowed the two acres of lawn and kept the driveway clear of snow without breaking down halfway through the job. A thousand pound spiral, cast-iron staircase from a restaurant basement renovation on Bolyston Street in Boston back from the days when we lived there in our twenties rested in a back corner of the barn near the kittens.
My mother looked around at this mess of a barn and shook her head sadly. “Oh, Sheila,” she said, with a true sense of compassion and worry, “you married a LaForte.”
Now I find myself flat on my back on the guest bed trying to manage the chaos that is my husband packing up his closet.
Something is wrong with this picture. He has three times as many clothes as I do. “If you somehow smuggled your Uncle Rob’s sweater down here in the last move, I am going to kill you,” I say. I never met Uncle Rob, he passed away before I met my husband thirty four years ago. I truly will kill him if I see that sweater coming out of the closet.
“I’m going to have a whole new look up there. The blazer look. Wide whale corduroy.”
“Oh, really?” Who does he think he is? Bob Newhart? “How about the patches on the elbows?” I ask.
“Suede patches? Those are cool. People are going to ask, do you sail? I could have sworn you sailed.” He looks at the growing pile of clothes on the bed. “I could go for two months without wearing the same thing twice. I’m gonna be the smoothest guy in town.”
He’s piling things on the bed by my feet. Every other item he takes from the closet receives this comment from me: “Get rid of it.” I notice a shirt I bought him twenty birthdays ago. “That definitely has to go.”
“Aww, it’s my favorite. That’s never gonna go. I’ll wear that to my grave.”
He does agree the faded, yellowing souvenir bathrobe from the Red Rocks casino in Vegas needs to go but he keeps the belt because he uses it for the leg stretches he does for his back.
He wipes his brow. “Phew. I need to take a break. I’m spent.” He reassesses the trash pile, grabs a flannel shirt, and slips it into the bulging duffel bag that belonged to his father. When he notices I noticed, he says, “We’re throwing away perfectly good shirts and we’re keeping this shower curtain?”
I did tell him to keep the shower curtain he was folding but it is covered with surfboards and woody station wagons and is sort of ugly so I’m rethinking my decision to keep it, however I am not giving ground until he gets rid of the flannel shirt.
Tucked in the back corner of the closet are old family slides that no longer have a slide projector to load them into. None of his eight siblings wanted them. “I have to do something with these some day,” he says. He also finds receipts that I needed for the 2010 tax return. “Do you want these?” he asks.
“There’s nothing I can do with those now, the tax return’s been filed.”
“Is it a rule that I have to throw out any clothes my mother bought me?” he asks. His mother passed away in 2001. He holds up an old, faded pair of swim trunks. “I could wear these around the house.”
“Yes, that is a major rule. Those swim trunks don’t even fit anymore, do they? You’re working at an inn. Guests could arrive unexpectedly. You can’t greet them in your bathing suit.”
“They could go with my blazer.”
I have a long three days ahead of me.
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