Love me, love my stuff
October 13, 2006
Although I read no cautionary clauses in our marriage license when we signed it last month, I’m now fairly certain relocating 33 days after our wedding wasn’t an entirely wise decision.Rick and I just bought our first house, and in anticipation of the move, we agreed to shed as much of our clutter as possible before the closing date. Our minds were seemingly as one in that we didn’t want to cart along our crappy belongings that had been hauled from past rentals homes. However, by “our,” he was somewhat disturbed to realize I meant “his.”I used to think of packing as therapy. When I lived alone, I applied a uniform rule every time I prepared to move – if I hadn’t thought about it, looked at or touched it since the prior move, it went out with the trash. Rick’s packing philosophy is more closely aligned with that of the Museum of Natural History or the Smithsonian – hang on to it for as long as possible and maybe someday someone somewhere will want to look at it.We breezed through the initial phase of packing without incident. We had kept most of our wedding gifts in their original boxes, so it simply meant a little duct tape here, a little stacking there and – voilá – they were in the garage, ready and waiting for moving day.Still, after the first weekend of packing, we surveyed the rest of our stuff and instead of feeling it resembled an “after” photo in a Jenny Craig ad, we were disappointed that our sum total still looked very much bloated and overweight. It was then that I learned newlywed packing is more like peeling an onion than dieting. The more layers that get removed, the bigger the figurative stench, the more free-flowing the literal tears.The time had arrived when we had to address the things that we brought separately into the relationship. And we played more than a few games of chicken during our packing adventures.”Can we keep this ceramic bowl my uncle made me when I won the eighth grade geography competition?” he asked, not looking at the chipped, unglazed pottery in his hands, but steadily in my eyes.I held his gaze. “Yes, I think we should keep it. Here, I’ll make room for it over here by throwing out this fifth-generation antique silver platter my grandma bequeathed me from her deathbed.” He blinked.I pointed to my old stereo. “My parents gave this to me for my 18 birthday. It was my first CD player ever. But, I suppose it hasn’t been used for a few years. So, let’s get rid of it. What about your boom box? Are we taking it with us?” I inquired, eyes locked with his while pointing to the 1981 Sony CFS-88S portable, expandable gray sub-woofer monster covered with dust in the corner.He didn’t miss a beat. “It was one of the first gifts my dad ever gave me. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he saw my pure joy. Until the day I die, I’ll never forget watching a single, perfect tear roll down his cheek.”I sighed. Touché.A month into wedded bliss, with dreams of our brand new home dancing in my head, I could no longer pretend to like the stuff of his that I had pretended to like when we were dating.When we moved in together last year, I turned a blind eye to lots and lots of stuff. His coffee table with the horizontal crevices that do nothing but collect crumbs, more crumbs and layers of unreachable, unbleachable bacteria. The mismatched commemorative college football glasses. Two copies of every book ever written since the Bible. Every cassette and record ever made (even though we have neither a cassette player nor a turntable). The jewel cases from his CD collection (even thought we long ago transferred the actual CDs to compact storage albums). The big ripped brown leather chair – of which he was the proud sixth owner – that had likely seen more asses than Playgirl before it had arrived in his possession. His 30-year-old baseball card collection that took up more than half of a walk-in closet. And then there are his fish tanks. That’s right. Tanks. Plural. Two empty 30-galloners and a very full 55-gallon fresh water tank.The occupants of the 55-galloner – two plecostomus sucker fish, two fire belly cichlids and two Oscars – are kind of dog-like. They swim up to the glass excitedly when someone enters the room and it almost looks like they’re wagging their tails. The big Oscar, who we call Oscar, lets Rick pet him (or her – no one really knows). The other Oscar, known as O.J. (because he’s younger than Oscar, because he’s orange and because he’s likely to kill at any moment), joined the aquatic family nearly three years ago and although smaller than Oscar, rules the reservoir.The tank weighs 500 pounds when filled with water, gravel and fish. Seriously. And the only thing it fits on is this big, ugly bookcase made of some kind of substitute wood material that was out of fashion about seven years before it was manufactured in 1964.We held a yard sale a few weeks before moving. That was one of our neighbors spotted the big fish tank through our front window and enthusiastically asked if he could buy it.I hurriedly called my mom whispered over the phone that the fish and their corroding tank might actually find a new home of their own, independent from ours.”You married Rick with the fish,” my mom gently reminded me. Suddenly, I experienced a wave of guilt. I thought about Rick petting Oscar like he was a Labrador puppy. I thought about his collection of fishing poles, the volume of books on fish and the hours we spent talking in the dark when we first met, the only in the room light coming from the tank.And so it is. Me, Rick, O.J. et. al. For better or worse. ‘Til bubble wrap and packing tape do us part. Especially since he finally agreed to dump that chair and the coffee table.E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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