Life is a Highway

Was there a driver in that car?

The realtor walking past me with his arms full of Stuff from that car does not telegraph his intention with any change of expression or tone. I continue down the hall for my next load, grinning. I understand him at both levels — humour and dead-straight enquiry — and flash back an hour to my driveway.

Every available space consistent with safe driving and adequate visibility — and maybe a few not so consistent — is crammed with Stuff. Trunk. Back seat and floor. Passenger seat and floor. As I squeeze into this car turned cast-off centre, there is barely enough room for me as driver.

My objective? To reach a real-estate office inconveniently located in a satellite community on the far side of town.

My public purpose?  To contribute to the ‘garage sale’ said real estate office is having to benefit their women’s shelter foundation.

My true purpose? To clean out my basement of things not used for, lo, these many years.

Was there a driver in that car?

What Stuff does it take to fill a car? Duplicate housewares from the merging of two households? Supplies from crafts no longer pursued? Books not worth a second reading?  All these, certainly, yet these are not the half of it. This car is, primarily, a mobile testament to years of collecting home-decor items.

There is the More-or-Less Standard: vases, pictures, Christmas ornaments. There is the Slightly Idiosyncratic: penguins, Tiggers, mineral specimens. There is also, perhaps, the Entirely Odd: one hundred sand dollars wrapped in paper towels.

I always wondered what was wrong with collectors until I found My Thing: mineral specimens. Such fabulous objects! So many variations! So affordable! It was revelation and invitation, all in one. Soon every horizontal surface in my home was graced with pink cubes of rock salt, blue-green crystals of fluorite, and shiny gold blocks of pyrite. Kyanite. Hematite.  Tanzanite. Jade.

Once the walls were breached, once the infection found a foothold, there was no stopping it. Antique dishes, glasses, ornaments. Pottery. Art cards. Sand dollars and shells. Tiggers. And, OMG, penguins of every conceivable material. Wood. Porcelain. Pottery. Brass. Fimo. Resin. Fabric.  Others, noting the interest (how could they miss it?), contributed their mite with gifts. Thus is the road to hell paved with Stuff given with good intentions.

Soon I was swamped, if not drowning. Yet with ample storage space in the basement, it might have gone on forever were it not for my mother. Returning home after various periods spent helping her sort through, give away, and otherwise dispose of a lifetime of Stuff, I resolved each time to do the same before it was Too Late.

Thus this car, packed to the gills.

Was there a driver in that car?

Back home after the drop-off, I survey a basement which should by rights be denuded but that is still all too well clothed. Furniture no longer in use but that might be useful, someday. Board games we no longer play but that the grandchildren might find interesting, someday. Financial records I no longer look at but that the revenooers might want to see, someday. And, of course, those pesky home-decor items: ones I won’t use but won’t part with, at least not today. Someday.

As hard as it is to maintain any outbound momentum, it’s not enough: something must be done to curb the inbound flow too. Today’s mail, ironically enough, brings a new catalogue: Collectables Direct. Its 50 pages average six collectable items per page, and its front cover offers ‘100 New Items!!’.

Please, God, no. If  life is a highway, as Tom Cochrane said, then I’m careering down it with a full load that is, suddenly, all too much. Goodness knows there’s no room for anyone in the passenger seat. That means I must be the driver in that car.



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4 Responses to Life is a Highway

  1. Jim Robertson says:

    You (continue to) have such a great way of saying things Isabel.

    Having had to “clean” house more than once after a parental death, I am sure your family will be glad to hear you have done some winnowing down.

    As hard as it is to part with things, especially when there is still room to spare in the basement…

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Oh, yes – cleaning out a house immediately after losing a parent isn’t what anyone should have to do, but for too many is exactly what happens. Anything we can do is worth it in spades for the next generation.

  2. Dave says:

    Hi Isobel,
    This time it’s me (Leone) reacting. I say “Good Job!” Unfortunately I did not inherit Mom’s great skill at getting rid of stuff regularly and frequently. I ‘m good at seeing things amongst Dave’s stuff that need to go but not nearly as good at paring down my stuff. I keep promising myself that I’ll get to it soon.
    We always enjoy your essays.
    Merry Christmas,

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Leone – That’s the truth – other people’s valued stuff looks a lot like junk – our junk looks like valuable stuff!

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