We can only grow so fast out of our childhood habits. It seems I still like to wait to be told to do something than to actually do it with the right timing and intentions.
I’m registered at Crate&Barrel. For the last month or so, boxes have been showing up at my office, packaged with a black bow that I so quickly discard because of how excited I am to be opening gifts with such frequency. I’m 6 years old again, tearing paper with force, leaving heaps of it for the nightshift janitor to cook with. One time it was a cast iron skillet and another time it was white sateen sheets. A vegetable steamer. A pasta pot for two. A 6-piece bakeware set. Frames. Today it was frames. I chatted Michael “Frames from Thad & Kathy!” (Couldn’t he sense my excitement?) “Woo!” I typed. “Boo!” was his response. Oh, for the love of it. Just once I’d like him to share in feelings he might not necessarily be feeling. My feelings.
But Michael thinks we have too much stuff. He’s been complaining recently about the lack of space he occupies in the closet now. I should’ve nipped that one in the bud weeks ago when he first hinted at it. Instead, I took one shirt out of the closet, still on its hanger, and laid it across the wicker chest we have at the foot of our bed. (The perfect place to “put things.”) I didn’t do this to be funny or nasty, it was honestly the one garment I felt comfortable enough to let go. Except it stayed on the wicker chest for a little too long. And the menorah I took out of the cabinet weeks ago for Chanukah… I kept it on the windowsill. Because it’s pretty, it reminds me of Chanukah, and I like it. I like it, and that should be an acceptable reason. Shouldn’t it? I don’t know anymore. When you’re a kid, you fold your arms together, scowl, and say “But I don’t wanna.” When you’re an adult, you fold your arms together, scowl, and say “Because I say so.” Not to sound like a “My So-Called Life” episode, but… it’s like we’re the same, always, and there’s very little you can do to convince yourself that you’re grown up. Maybe. Sure, you can buy a car, stay up all night, have sex for the first time, write a rent check, move in with someone, host a dinner party, call a dinner party “a dinner party,” join a CSA, pay your own taxes. You can do all these things, and yet.
I don’t want to have to purge my things. Will I feel better when I do? Sure. Will I miss it all when it’s gone? Probably not. It’s not like I still think about those amazing worn-out Levis I wore in high school that made my ass look great. No, I don’t think about those jeans at all. Until I do. The pile of paper and jewelry and photographs on my dresser drives me crazy, but I’ve always been fond of the “beautiful mess.” When I was living in Amherst, in a studio apt all to myself, I remember looking around my room and honing in on my bookshelf, a wicker bookshelf only someone who lives in Amherst can buy and love so much. The books weren’t stacked neatly, weren’t alphabetized, weren’t facing the same direction… but they were books that I’d read or tried to read or were planning to read… and every single one was a reminder of me and my life. Do we look for things that will help define us? Maybe. Is that why I like to stack books in different corners of the apartment, place an old typewriter and dried hydrangeas on the white tile table my dad built with two hands? Hang my grandfather’s watercolor paintings on the walls? Leave the coffee pot on the stove? My Brooklyn half-marathon number on the dresser?
I don’t know.
I do know that I agree with Michael. There’s always too much stuff lying around. But I really don’t like hearing it when it comes directly from him. I feel like a child, like I’ve been bad, like I still haven’t fed the dog and was asked to do it 10 minutes ago. I want us to sit there one day and just agree together. I don’t want to be told “Boo” when someone gets us beautiful new frames. I want to be the one who says “Boo.