It's not about the house.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Squirrels and Rats and Renegade Broads

I’m going to say this right now, and I hope you all will call me on it should I ever renege:

I will never rent a storage space.

There’s a thing in the Times today about how people are using these rent-by-the-square-foot stash-cubbies to convince themselves they don’t have as much stuff as they used to, or to give themselves more space to get more stuff. I will never do that.

Here’s how I know:

I live with a person (let’s call him “Johnny”) who has a hard time throwing anything away. Or letting anybody else throw anything away. That card table you put out for the trash last January when you realized it wasn’t good enough for company anymore and you were never going to be taking it with you on a camping trip again? It’s in my basement.

We have broken lawn mowers that somebody has sworn are going to work again someday. We have wine bottles enough to take over for poor, dead Mr. Gallo. We have a second freezer full of the heads and carcasses of fish that folks have caught, filleted and passed along. We have a scythe – a scythe! – the only possible use for which might be to give me tetanus.

We’re set. I don’t need any more space for this stuff.

Here’s a true story: Last year, I managed to convince this “Johnny” that we had too many old t-shirts between us, that we ought to thin the ranks and toss some out. Don’t ask me how I managed to convince him, but I did. He wanted to give them to Goodwill, but the only ones he was willing to let go were too far gone for Goodwill, in my opinion, so he said we ought to keep them to be rags.

Fine. So I put the old and ratty t-shirts in a trash bag in the basement. I even, over the intervening year, went into the bag once or twice to rag a shirt out when I was stripping woodwork. But I didn’t rag them up ahead of time, and I forgot to put a label on the bag.

Last month, when I wasn’t home, “Johnny” was looking in the basement for something else I don’t remember, and he found this unlabelled bag of shirts. Perfectly good shirts! What were they doing in the basement?

He brought them up, ran the whole bag’s worth through the laundry, folded them all up and put them all away. I came home to find a shirt I’d forgotten that I used to own – one that says “William Kennedy Smith… meet Thelma and Louise” – in a place of honor in my t-shirt drawer.

Now, let’s forget about the fact that this is the first time he’s washed and dried and folded and put away laundry in recent memory. I’d loved this shirt. I’d bought it at a gay pride rally in New York – oh, it must be fifteen years ago, at least. My dad said it made no sense because William Kennedy Smith was found not guilty, but I was young enough to know that guilt or innocence was not the point.

I still love the shirt. It reminds me of the friend I was visiting in New York at the rally where I bought it, who has been living strong with HIV a dozen years now. It reminds me of being 22 and beautiful. And idealistic. And just a little dumb. It reminds me of my Dad – who’s also still with us, by the way (hi, Dad!). And I still love Thelma, and Louise. But I’ve moved on.

It wasn’t easy, moving on. The shirt was threadbare and yellowed by the time I finally managed to give it up. I’d tried a bunch of times before and failed, but at long last I’d succeeded. And I realized, when I saw it, that I hadn’t even noticed it was missing – but now that it was back I wanted it again.

So I took the shears and chopped it into rags. Because I refuse to become the Collyer Brothers, no matter what this “Johnny” has to say!

Except for no I didn’t. The rest of the ratty t-shirts got the shears, but I tossed the girls under my bed for safekeeping. I’m sure I’ll never wear the shirt again – well, almost sure – but I couldn’t stand to throw it out a second time.

Hm. I never noticed how much room there is under that bed there. It’s like its own little secret storage space. I wonder what else I could squirrel away without having to admit anything to the pack rat that I live with…*

But I’m not renting it. I own it. See? There’s a difference. I swear.

* (two rodent metaphors in one sentence – not bad, eh? at least there aren’t any spiders in it this time – and there could have been, what with that bag of t-shirts in the basement…)

1 comment:

Charlie said...

If you frame it and hang it on the wall it magically becomes "ART" and not junk.