2 fishing poles and a fishy background

Urgency Day 5

500 Things Items 497-98: Fishing Poles

  • History: Left behind after summer adventures
  • Value: Patience and non-screen time
  • Parting pain: None
  • Unpossessing: Gifts

Something’s fishy.

I listen to NPR. A Lot. I love This American Life and A Prairie Home Companion. I never miss Click and Clack or Wait, Wait! I’m kind of a Science Friday groupie. And I get most of my news from All Things Considered.

Keep your Morning Joe. Robert Siegel is on my “list.”

But something’s definitely fishy.

Radio, real AM/FM radio, is very intimate. It’s just you and a voice. In a shrill world, I desperately appreciate a calm voice. And I really believed the fantastically calm All Things radio voice when it told me NPR wanted to hear about my favorite summer sound.

Of course, I thought. I’ve got a great one!

I had been thinking about this anyway, what with the nostalgia tear I’m on at Sam’s imminent departure. I’m fixated on my rear-view mirror: Sam’s past, my family’s past, my past. Distant summers especially tug at me, like a neglected friend cajoling me to sit and reminisce.

“I’m  busy,” I demur. “There’s so much to do.” I don’t want to lose time to a past that can’t ever be relived. “I’ll catch up with you later, when there’s more time.” Later, I lie to my summer memories, and to myself.

I don’t want later to come. I must be here, be productive, solve problems: figure out how to go on. And that’s what I was doing when I heard the radio voice offer a compromise.

“Send us your short essays about sounds we hear that evoke the summer season.”

The All Things Considered people would consider my memories about the past. If I spent time writing about the past for NPR, that wasn’t self-indulgence; that was self-promotion!

I wrote my essay about my summer sound, just like the radio voice suggested. I had to do a bit of research, asking my sister– who asked our mother who consulted with her cousin– for factual clarification. I wrote and edited and polished. And when I was satisfied, I emailed it to the nice voices at All Things Considered. And then something fishy happened.

I never heard back.

Not even a “thanks for your entry” confirmation. I really don’t know if my sound was ever considered. Maybe it was; maybe they really do consider all things, and this thing was simply rejected. Probably. Or, maybe, the show is really Only Some Things Considered. That would be very disappointing.

Here is the link for the page with my sound essay. It will be less meaningful without the wonderful sound effects I imagined NPR including, and more meaningful for the people with whom I experienced those precious summer days.

 And that is almost certainly why it wasn’t considered.

This is two in a row for fish references. Three, over all. The fishing poles I’m downsizing today were left behind by the same fisher-boys who left the previously downsized tackle. Fishing can be a wonderfully instructive diversion. But my grandfather was a commercial fisherman. He smelled of the raw ocean and of the drink he consumed to forget his hard life. My grandfather’s grizzled smell, and tattooed feel, and his kind and weary voice are tangled in memories as sweet as fresh sea air.

And his name was Sam.

Granddaddy Sam and Suzy, 1964

Shedding New Light


shedding light unintentionally

Urgency Day 14

500 Things Item 479: Floor Lamp

  • History: Years-ago IKEA purchase endured even after the bulb burned through the plastic shade
  • Value: Lights but the burnt plastic smell has been pretty unappealing
  • Parting Pain: Nope
  • Un-possessing: Donation—maybe someone can replace the shade… or doesn’t mind the smell

Who doesn’t love a fresh perspective?

Especially when you’ve been muddling along for a while, stuck in old patterns, just phoning it in.

I definitely have been muddling for much of the recent present, mostly getting Sam organized for his launch. People are often oblivious to their own muddling. I am no exception.

I was aware of a low-level hum of dissatisfaction in the white noise of my routine, but when I’m in The Routine, accomplishing The List occupies most of my attention. I am deaf to how much grumbling and venting peppers my conversation.

Is there a difference between venting and complaining?

Venting seems to be the socially acceptable form of complaining.

  • “I need to vent.”
  • “Just let me vent for a minute, then I’ll be alright.”
  • “Let’s vent over Venti lattes.”

Who hasn’t uttered at least one of those statements and gotten some sympathy? Especially if it includes the offer of coffee. But try this: try substituting the word vent with complain. Suddenly these seemingly innocent declarations are a bit less palatable, even with a coffee chaser.

Occasionally, the Eagle Scout and I have to curtail each other’s complaining. We just have to. It’s not that we don’t support each other unconditionally and want to communicate internal preoccupations. But sometimes it comes down to peace in the household.

We don’t like it when the household inter-com gets stuck on “complain.”

So I’m implementing two new energy-changing ideas. Well, new for me:

  1.  Challenging cycling habits
  2.  Shopping at Costco

Cycling: I love riding my bike. I adore our relatively flat bike trails. I do not love hills. And there are some hills and climbs on our routes I complain about tediously. On last weekend’s ride, however, something clicked. I just decided to Kill a Hill.

It’s an ascent we have to tackle near the end of many of our routes. Usually I fall well off the pace of the Fierce Riders I am with. But I want to be fierce! So I attacked the hill. And you know what? I killed it.

It felt awesome.

Costco. For years, I have complained that buying in bulk simply makes people cavalier in their consumption. It’s the “We have so much; I don’t need to conserve” attitude. I have also contended that our family of 3 has no business shopping at Costco. And now, as our household is about to downsize, I am joining Costco?

Credit my friend Vicky for shedding new light on this debate. As part of the cooking class I help teach for Families Helping Families clients, I have made several recent excursions to Costco with Vicky. She points out the great buys she has found for her own small family and is the perfect role model for conscientious bulk purchasing.

She even says that she and her husband sometimes have date-nights at the Costco Café! No matter the venue, she and I never complain about date night!

The lamp I am downsizing today sheds light in an unintended way. I am very intentionally shedding new light on old complaints. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure I will never be a perfectly contented person. But with two weeks left until Sam leaves,

I have no complaints about a fresh perspective.

Fraud Alert


sometimes the pen is mightier than the pixel

Urgency Day 27

500 Things Item 468: Laptop Computer

  • History: This is the same dead laptop that sent me aknockin’ on Sam’s desktop last year
  • Value: It’s still dead; Pixie dust couldn’t rescue this pixelated processor
  • Parting pain: Not at the parting, just the replacing
  • Un-possessing: Conscientious recycling

I am a fraud.

I promise: It was NOT my intention. It just kind of snuck up on me; uncomfortable realization after uncomfortable realization. Then, one day– not at all out of the blue– it smacked me in the head:


That day was April 26th. I downsized a small shelf unit that day, April 26th, the day I announced the winner of the Self-Contained Unit’s college search: Vassar College. Corks popped, fireworks sizzled: Hazzah! Sam is a Brewer (BTW: All-time least ironic college mascot). He had successfully navigated high school’s end game: college admissions. Sweet relief.

Yes, I downsized an item that day, as I had for 375 days prior to that and would (and will) for another 125. But do you know what happens after the college selection is made, the college deposit mailed, the college-admissions-process guard dropped?

College shopping.

Methodical, strategic, predestined accumulating.

Lists, lists, lists of absolutely essential stuff… and oh my, I love a list, but every lovingly descriptive, coupon coordinated, Mapquest-aided list I compile, I feel the smack again:


I write a blog about DOWNSIZING, for goodness sake! I am getting rid of one thing every day for (what will be) 500 days. I giddily proselytize about decluttering my shelves, my drawers, my life. I patiently defuse incredulity about how Less Really Really is More. And in the presence of More is More zealotry, I keep the eye-rolling to an absolute minimum.


I am now re-acquiring, magnificently.

See this list?

  • 41 Kitchen items
  • 58 Decorative items
  • 54 Items of clothing
  • 21 Wardrobe accessories
  • 35 DVDs, CDs and tapes
  • 4 Pieces of furniture
  • 8 Electronics
  • 43 (+ one trunk load) Toys and games
  • 28 Household items such as tools
  • 1 Christmas Wreath
  • 1 Box of Mouse Memorabilia
  • 186 Books

That’s the list I posted on May 17th of the first 400 Downsized Things. Since then, I have downsized an additional 67 items. More books, more household items, more CDs, more toys. Or I should say fewer. We have 67 fewer Things, because of this Project. Except…


College. Requires. Stuff. Apparently.

Yes, some items on the lengthy college-stuff list will come from the family collection. He doesn’t need brand new mugs or utensils. A blanket? Plenty of those to contribute. And we’re tickled to send him off with the trusty corkboard that aided and abetted his four-year dash toward independence.

I just don’t happen to have any extra-long sheets kicking around. A shower caddy? In our home, we encourage him to keep the soap and shampoo in the showering area. And a suitable portable computing device? What a revelation.

I have heard that— and I intend no bias here; I’m simply reporting a pattern— many girls are very interested in the college shopping process. Some even take charge. My boy hasn’t shown a similar level of investment in tracking down sheets and stuff. Except for the suitable portable computing device. Suddenly, the boy was all about the hunt. And the kill.

One down.

And I don’t mean down-sized.

Next post: My thoughts on resolving this conflict of interests.

House Keeping


not keeping

Urgency Day 100

500 Things Item 400:  Sponge Mop

  • History: From another era
  • Value: Mine never fully wrings out and gets icky
  • Parting Pain: I really only use Swiffers, so no
  • Un-possessing: Free-cycle (i.e. out next to the garbage)

People expect empty shelves.

Since starting this project 400 days ago, I’ve gotten rid of 400 things from our home. More, really. So, when people come to our house, they truly expect to see empty shelves, bare walls, closed off rooms.

And you know what they find?

Full shelves, decorated walls, open doors.

The most dramatic realization in this project is that more than 400 things can lift right out of a home, and no one will notice. And I don’t mean 400 Lego pieces:

  • 41 Kitchen items
  • 58 Decorative items
  • 54 Items of clothing
  • 21 Wardrobe accessories
  • 35 DVDs, CDs and tapes
  • 4 Pieces of furniture
  • 8 Electronics
  • 43 (+ one trunk load) Toys and games
  • 28 Household items such as tools
  • 1 Christmas Wreath
  • 1 Box of Mouse Memorabilia
  • 186 Books

480 items, right there. Over 20% more stuff than planned: That’s a lot of wiggle room– and even that’s not completely accurate. I often underreported whole categories of items. Take clothing. A bag bulging with clothing to be donated would add just a couple of ticks to the Project counter. And books! One day I counted 127 books as a mere 4 items!

The idea was to stay on track, one thing a day for 500 days. If some days more downsizing was accomplished, well, this is one case where I will admit more is better. Only one, though.

So here we are: The last 100 days of my 500 days of highly monitored downsizing. And friends of this Project are aware that #500 will be a doozy. But I’ve known it from the start; it’s part and parcel of the entire endeavor. I knew I would be launching Sam at the end. Launching is necessary and exciting and heartbreaking and wonderful.  In terms of your child, launching sounds a whole lot better than downsizing.

What I did not know for a very long time during this process, was whether Paul and I would also need to downsize another very significant thing in our lives, at the same time we were launching our son.

For a very long time, we thought we would also need to sell our house.

Now “need” is an interesting word. On paper, we probably do still need to sell our house. But we can’t, not now. Right now, very few people can.

So we are keeping the house. We are profoundly grateful that this is even an option, grateful to every person who helped and prayed and employed and loved us to this point. We’re digging deep and digging in. We’re keeping the house, and launching the child.

Launching #500

in 100 days.

Why I Hate Summer


It's 90 degrees out. Am I mad?

Urgency Day 106

500 Things Item 391: Winter Coat

  • History: c. 1999, I meant to un-possess it last winter
  • Value: It’s a good warm coat which someone will enjoy
  • Parting Pain: Embarrassed that I have so many coats, so no parting pain
  • Un-possessing: Donation

I hate summer.

I take a lot of abuse for saying this.

I also receive a fair amount of support.

Summer seems to be a more divisive topic than you might expect.

If you’ve been so kind as to take notice of the 250 Books list I’m methodically compiling, you may have observed a wonderful children’s book at #23, Summer by Alice Low. Occupying position 23 on my list should not suggest it is my 23rd favorite book; that is merely the order in which it was added. Actually, this little picture book is probably one of my top 5 favorite books.

It’s a sweet, funny tribute to all the things I used to love about summer-time, back when summer was about time: Time off, time to relax, time to do absolutely nothing. Summer-time is quantifiably different from other-time.

And it’s ridiculous to say we did nothing in summertime. We did everything in summertime!… except go to school, and that made summer the absolute perfect time.

Being done with school now, the lack of school doesn’t make summer perfect anymore. That’s not what is missing for me. The beach is missing for me. Has been for years now, and I miss it with an ache as potent as the loss of a soul mate.

But wistfulness is not hate. And I hate summer.

  • I hate the heat AND the humidity:
  • I hate perspiring glasses and people;
  • I hate that panicky space of time between shutting the passenger door on your buckled-in child or panting dog and dashing around to the driver’s door to start the car and crank up the air conditioning;
  • I hate air conditioning;
  • I hate when the air conditioning breaks;
  • I hate spider veins, month-old pedicures, self-tanner stains, bikini waxes, needing bikini waxes.

And there’s the ugly truth. I hate that aging means I’ve become high-maintenance in summertime. It’s not the aging; it’s the maintaining.

Summer used to be about a tank top, a pair of shorts and maybe some flip flops. Not anymore. Now, I need time to be presentable; more time than in the wintertime; too much time, to present myself comfortably, and I hate wasting time.

What am I working toward in this project?

Less stuff, more time!

And I don’t want to do nothing anymore; I want to do everything! Except preen. What a waste of time.

But that’s what it’s come to for me: Self-consciousness. I hate that.

Ditto, summer.

Signs of Life


a sign

Urgency Day 112

500 Things Item 388: Secretary Desk

  • History: Family piece
  • Value: I think the Antiques Roadshow people would demur
  • Parting Pain: Only in the shipping
  • Un-possessing: A gift

Stop deep breath listen

When you read those words, where did you put the commas? Did you put commas?

Even in the very clutter-free world toward which I am working, there will still be commas. Commas are simply pauses. In fact, I think I will have a few more pauses in the clutter-free world, because I will have more time.

Less time managing my clutter. More time experiencing my life.

Uber-organizer Peter Walsh defines clutter as “anything that gets between you and the life you want to live.” (Natural Healing 3/10. 74) I think this is an enlightening statement.

Clutter is subjective.

I was in my garden yesterday with a young friend who was helping me pull some weeds. He asked what a weed was. I offered him the classic definition: “A weed is anything growing where you don’t want it to grow.” He paused, and– smart six-year-old cookie that he is– he asked, “So if you didn’t want a rose bush right here, it would be a weed?”

“Yes, Luke. Even a rose bush can be a weed.”

We both paused, mid-weed pull, and breathed deeply. Then we both cracked up at breathing so deeply at the exact same time. Six-year olds are great levelers.

The sweet desk I am gifting today has become a weed to me. It is clutter. But, when I offered it to my niece, Laura, she was thrilled. As a newly-minted, first-time home owner, it isn’t clutter to her at all. It’s a sign of starting a new life.

Signs of life. Every scratch, every dent, every nick and scrape on the desk represents a moment of engagement. Even if the engagement was only to catch my mail or store Sam’s music or hold a vase of roses from my garden, there was a purpose. But the desk has long since been replaced as a mail catcher, a music stand, a room brightener. At one time, I was so pleased to have it, and now I am even more pleased to give it to Laura.

I wrote about Laura last year, on this same day, May 5th, Laura’s birthday. Laura is a force of nature who is off right now having adventures, experiencing life. I hope this old desk will brighten her new life. It can’t even hint at the dazzling brightness she has brought to mine.

At one time, this desk held a box of my most beloved pictures. One is a picture of baby Laura, at the beach, delicately handing me a sand crab. But the picture captures the moment just before she places the treasure in my hand. We are paused, forever, in the moment just before. I’ve stared at this picture so often, I can conjure every sound and every smell, and remember experiencing the magic of a small, wondrous life.

Stop, deep breath, listen.

Happy birthday, Laura

a gewgaw by any other name

Urgency Day 123

500 Things Items 370-75: 6 Delicate Tea Cups

  • History: 25 years of tepid acquiring
  • Value:  Intrinsic only (too many chips)
  • Parting Pain: Only in the careful cleaning
  • Un-possessing: Gift

Gewgaw: Great word. Bad idea.

At least if you want to live an uncluttered life.

At what point do a few gewgaws become a collection? And is a collection a more desirable thing than a few gewgaws?

Depends, right? One person’s small collection of gewgaws is another’s assemblage of worthless tchotchkes.

Tchotchkes, gewgaws, knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, trinkets: So many charming words for the same things, and each conveying a sense of inconsequence and whimsy; of the ephemeral. I enjoy the words for stuff so much more than stuff itself.

Henry Thoreau said, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”

Oh Henry, I am trying:

I chant it: Simplify, simplify, simplify.

I proclaim it: Downsize, downsize, downsize.

I live it: Donate, donate, donate.

Simplify, downsize, donate. No room for trifles there. But then, for all my focus and commitment, then for all my routine affirmations…

Then, I am undone. Not philosophically, not morally, not essentially. No, I am undone by a singular task, a task with which I am faced from time to time.

I am undone by packing. Packing for a trip.

I’ve blogged it before: I can banish every burdensome trinket, streamline my entire house, and still spectacularly overpack for a mere three-day journey.

Bless me, Henry, for I have sinned, the sin of travel-excess. Just to make me feel worse, Henry also said, “After the first blush of sin comes its indifference.”

Oh no. Not yet. I feel my sin, deeply.

I have to pack today. Here’s what should simplify it for me, theoretically:

  • It’s a short trip, just 3 days, plus travel days;
  • No extreme weather or activities expected;
  • If I do neglect to bring something essential, there will be no lack of a Walgreens or a Gap (In our family, we call this the “We’re not going to Albania” Rule—i.e. no where exotic or underserved by American commerce. Sorry if I’m unintentionally maligning Albania.).

I detest clutter and needless stuff fantastically; therefore, This Time, I am going to make a connection between over packing and clutter. Why have I failed to make this connection in the past? Dunno. Will it work this time? Again, not sure.

But I would really like to take my uncluttered, my gewgaw-less life for a test drive.

Buckle up and mind the Gap.

So Elizabeth: Not a mouse; The Mouse!

Urgency Day 147

500 Things Items: To be revealed in due course


When I hear that question, “What’s in the box?” I can only hear it in Katharine Hepburn’s very clipped, very young voice in the movie Bringing Up Baby.

“David? What’s in the box?”

(Cary Grant’s voice from the shower) “What?”

“In the box?”

You’ll remember, I’m sure, it was a bone in the box, a fossil.

My box contained a few fossils as well. And a few hard truths.

This box contains the nexus of my contradictory selves, the disparate impulses that meet and inform and divide me. And define me.

“Hi. My name is Suzanne. And I am a recovering Disney addict.”


I wasn’t always the admonishing voice of downsizing. No, indeed. As proof, two words: My favorite place in the entire world is

1.       Disney

2.       World.

The very definition of grandiose, exhilarating, enchanting, over-blown, over-wrought, rapturous excess

Disney and simplicity? Never met.

My affection isn’t of the glammed-up, post-modern variety, either. This is fanatical, guileless, drank the Kool-Aid, if Captain Hook slams his boot, I will jump, if Mickey says “Jump,” I will soar, devotion.

And here’s my shameful secret: For all my streamlining and downsizing, I’m still addicted. Here’s the shame: I can’t afford it.

Literally, yeah, as in “our economic recovery is in its infancy.” Sound familiar? But also, metaphorically; spiritually. You see, when I have gone to Disney World, I have never met a certain kind of souvenir I didn’t like. How does this not fall exclusively under the category of financially inadvisable? My souvenirs were mostly of the free but temporally burdensome variety.

If it was a themed menu, I took it; if it was a themed napkin, I took it; if it was a themed-

  • Ticket
  • Receipt
  • Brochure
  • Map
  • Notepad
  • Bag
  • Coaster
  • Matchbook
  • Sewing kit
  • Mouse-keeping message
  • Toilet paper stuck to the bottom of Ariel’s tail

I took it. I took it all. And voluminous souvenirs of this kind require archiving.

Now, I had every intention of creating a scrapbook. I even bought the scrapbook cover and page inserts, the mounting corners, the doubled-sided tape and goofy– make that Goofy– adornments. And then I carried the box with the supplies and the souvenirs from our first apartment to our townhouse to the next 2 apartments through another townhouse and to 3 single-family homes.

And with the opening of the box, you have just witnessed the only subsequent effort toward scrapbooking.

I don’t scrapbook.

I know my darling sister is going to feel self-conscious in the details of this confession. She, too, took the themed bits of paper; often in giddy cahoots with me; sometimes nimbly pinching them on her own. But here’s the difference: she did turn her booty into scrapbooks! Glorious scrapbooks, worth poring over, worth preserving.

Ah, now we are at the heart of the matter, the core I referred to yesterday when identifying this last unopened box as my central issue; when I called it the heart of the matter and the dead center.

How are memories best preserved?

Through an unconsidered accumulation of stuff that requires time and brings with it an obligation of attention? That doesn’t seem to be working for me. Not with the Disney stuff. Not with any of my stuff.

In all of this stuff, here is what I love: the notes and annotations; the places on the themed papers where we scribbled plans and times and comments. The gorgeous letters that greeted us from our dearest friends who cared for our pets during our trips. The words in my beloveds’ handwriting, along with a few treasured pictures, put me back in those precious moments far better than any Disney-sanctioned memorabilia. You see, I am not dismissive of sentiment, just stuff. But I’ve got some stuff representing some truly treasured memories here.

Now what?

Here is the list of what I do not need to preserve, representing the 500 Things Project Items 348-56:

out of the box

  • Napkins
  • Gift boxes
  • Bags
  • 2 kind of nasty plastic drink cups
  • Glowing necklaces that no longer glow

And the rest? Well, there’s a picture below. I still won’t scrapbook, but clearly, I can box. I envision a pretty, reasonably-sized box which can sit out in my very streamlined family room and invite perusal. My downsizing project and I can live with one memory box, and I will enjoy it when people ask:

What’s in the box?



Wishing and Wanting


this shelf is history

Urgency Day 189

500 Things Item #310: Tatty Wicker Shelf

  • History: We think it conveyed.
  • Value: We think it should go away.
  • Parting Pain: That would be none.
  • Un-possessing: Donation (I’m so sorry.)

Where were you when?

It’s become almost cliché, like adding –gate to the end of a scandal. And like other clichés, it’s a useful shortcut, a quick start to a conversation in which you place yourself at a pivotal, iconic moment. I think of Woody Allen’s character, Zelig—“Oh he was there, too!”

At the most macro-level, we are all present at every event. But some events and certain moments, you wish you could be there to witness, to be part. To be there.

Today, I wish I wanted to be in Cairo.

I will always remember where I was when I heard the news from Cairo.

I had just returned from having a coffee with my friend Melanie. I turned on the radio in my kitchen and started slicing an avocado for lunch. The exultant cheers had returned to Tahrir Square, and I will forever more associate guacamole with Egyptian liberation.

When I was young, around ten years old, I wanted to be an archeologist specializing in ancient Egypt. I drew color-coded maps of the Nile basin and constructed models of the pyramids out of my father’s dental-impression cement. I set up a museum in my basement and would have charged my friends 25 cents for a tour, if any of them had been willing to pay to listen to my insufferable pedantry. I was hopelessly unpopular, but I didn’t care. I was passionate about Egypt.

I wanted to be there.

There have been other moments.

In 1989, Paul and I were living in our crazy, fabulously cheap apartment in Fredericksburg, Virginia when we heard the news from Berlin: “The Wall has fallen!” We were riveted by the images of the joyous crowds hammering at the graffitied rubble. We cried and cheered and yearned to have enough money to hop on a plane to go to Berlin.

We longed to be there.

Twelve years after Berlin, Paul and I had added the nascent Self-Contained Unit to our family and were living in a much less crazy, ridiculously expensive house. That Morning, I had climbed fully-clothed into the bathtub—it was the only place from which to adjust the antennae on the small bathroom TV— and was getting ready to take a shower, when it became clear from the voices that something was very wrong in Lower Manhattan. “You should come look at this,” I called to Paul.

We cried and worried and called our family and friends; to hear their voices and know they were safe, and to find out where they were when they had heard about the towers in New York.

But we didn’t want to be there.

As I get older, I am less often swept up by the desire to have a front row seat, whether to history, a movement or even to a concert. A cautious distance seems to be more my comfort zone now. It’s not a very passionate place, the comfort zone. But it is certainly safe.

Today, I am in awe of what the Egyptian people have accomplished. Revolution is a large word, trivialized through overuse in marketing campaigns and at sporting events. Today, there was a paradigm shift, a true revolution.

And today, I desperately wish I wanted to be there.



tapes delayed

Urgency Day 200

500 Things Item 285: Harry Potter 5 Tapes

  • History: Tapes, yes tapes, of our most beloved series
  • Value: Countless hours of pleasure, but tapes deteriorate…
  • Parting Pain: …And these particular tapes are haunted
  • Un possessing: Free-cycle

Proust had the smell of madeleines;  I have the sound of Jim Dale’s voice.

It’s apparent by the Urgency number: Today is a milestone. We have 200 days left of this version of Life with the Self-Contained Unit.

It is conventional wisdom isn’t it, that once you go off to college, home is never quite the same. Where is Home? Is it the place your parents live, where you slept and ate, played and dreamed, loved and cried until you left one wrenching August day? Or is it the place you went to? The new place where you slept and ate, played and dreamed, loved and cried and maybe studied a little, with hundreds of other scared kids some of whom became your new tribe, your new family, in your new home.

Two hundred days.

That’s the apparent milestone. Another one arrived this morning as well. After 455 days, we took our lives off pause.

This morning, Paul went out the door to a job. It happens every day in other houses– though not nearly enough houses—but it hadn’t happened in our house for 455 days. Four hundred fifty-five days ago, Paul came home from work early; came into our kitchen while I was having lunch, doing some paper work and listening to the soundtrack of our lives, the Harry Potter books-on-tape. It was Order of the Phoenix, not my favorite, and still near the beginning of the story. Hearing the garage door open so early, I knew something was wrong. Sickness leapt to mind first, but somehow I knew: No, not sickness. I pressed the pause button on the tape player.

Our lives have been on pause for almost 15 months. Of course, even in unemployment, Life goes on. We slept, ate, played, dreamed, loved and cried, more and less, but blessedly– though for not nearly enough people– still in the same house.

And it was in this same house, the same kitchen, where this morning I recreated the beginning of the pause so that I could literally experience taking our Life off of pause. After Paul drove off, after the garage door shut and the house was very quiet, I replaced the tape, left exactly where I had paused it 15 months ago, and let Jim Dale complete his sentence:

“The scrupulously clean kitchen had an oddly unreal glitter after the darkness outside.”

Sometimes, closure is real.

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