Wednesday, October 22, 2014



The other day I was looking for a receipt on our breakfast room table.  I dug around a bit—among travel articles, prescription warnings, university health letters, family clips—and realized it was hopeless. How deep should I dig, anyway? . . . if , in fact, the thing was even there. Who knew?

Among those who have seen that stack (the table equivalent of a five-car freeway pile-up) are friends who draw benign comfort.  Gee, this looks like one of my tables. And others, like my daughter, who say nothing but think, Thank God this isn’t mine.

That day something snapped.  I can’t stand this any longer. With that, I moved pile after pile to the family room couch, and from there I began sorting. As I dug deeper, strata lines appeared, like those in old, sliced-away mountains. One layer had been dunked in spilled coffee. Another was sprinkled with sugar. At the bottom were papers dating back  to 2007, replete with invitations to events long over. The process resembled an archaeological dig.  

Today our table is so clean that one of our grandkids actually gasped, and now my husband won’t let me set down the slightest thing, even a book. 

Which reminds me of other spots in our house . . . the den where Rob stores calendars from 2012 and piles of National Geographics (which even our library won’t accept). When do we ever look at any of them?  After last-year’s scary backyard fire when we nearly lost the house, the thought occurred to me: if the place burned, how much would I miss?  The answer was obvious—not the clothes we never wear, nor the stones we’ve collected in little dishes, nor the closet with too many towels. We wouldn’t care about the old Reader’s Digests piled in a bathroom drawer. All these are replaceable.

We’d mourn only our writings. And the pictures: our mothers as girls, our children as babies. And maybe some of our clothes, and a few gifts and notes from each other. We might have problems with recent tax records. 

But my drawer full of good, useable purses?  Hey, I keep forgetting I even have them.  

Which is why, when we go on trips, we donate newspapers to schools. If there’s anything I’ve learned about life, it’s that you live it forwards, not backwards. You simply never re-read that article too good to throw away. As many times as you promise yourself, I’ll look at this stuff when I’m old, the truth is plain: you never get that old.     

And now we’re heading for a river trip—Budapest to Amsterdam, cruising three classic rivers. In a few weeks I’ll doubtless have something new to blog about. 

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