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purge, interrupted

August 9, 2012
Cover of "Sophie's Choice"

Cover of Sophie’s Choic

After much talk and preparation – which consisted mostly of obsessing and fretting, I have begun the unenviable task of clearing out my storage space.

It’s been a daily ordeal.  I show up at the storage facility, punch in the convoluted nine digit code – after ten straight visits I now have it memorized – I open the padlock, roll up the metal door and look at the overwhelming stacks of stuff.  After three days I had purged the sardine packed 10×10 unit of just three boxes.  I sift through every box because a year later I can’t tell which ones were carefully packed, and which ones were stuffed with crap because I ran out of time.

And this is when the guerrilla warfare of ‘This is Your Life’ begins — each rip of packing tape reveals a memory that has the potential to rend my heart wide open.  It is a mine field of memories.  I navigate around the obvious trinkets and I’m up to my eyes before I realize I’m in the quicksands of   every  single  thing  has  meaning.

But I can’t keep it all.  I don’t want to keep it all.  I’ve lived without it all for a year — some things I’ve thought about and yearned for in that time, others I rediscover for a moment, then happily chuck in the Goodwill box.

Sorting through the kitchen stuff was fairly easy even though I’d painstakingly amassed all the gear for a well equipped kitchen.  You can replace appliances but not mom’s silverware.  I stumbled a bit through the tchotchkes until I accepted that more than one souvenir from one place was a form of hoarding.  Not keeping souvenirs didn’t negate all my travels.  I was doing quite well, and then I got to the books.

I confess I have an addiction.  I’m a book hoarder.  I have a lot of books I’ve never read.  I have multiple titles of authors I am momentarily infatuated with but the crush cools before I get through the collection.  I have gifts from friends I haven’t gotten around to reading.  I hoard deals from second-hand bookstores.  And then I have all the gorgeous stories I have read and savored  and hope to one day savor again.  But I have a heavy task, and I am committed to whittling down my personal library.

So I start a pile of the ‘never read’s to give away, when I’m ready I can source the titles at a bookstore or the library.  And then I see the biography of the Caribbean politician from my dad.  My heart pauses, it was one of the last books he gave me.  It earns a place in the ‘keep’ pile.  There are a few more ‘never read’s deemed worthy of keeping because of sentiment.  I see the pattern emerging, every book is a ‘Sophie’s Choice’ moment.  And I cannot choose.  As I read the inscriptions from ‘Mommy and Daddy’ and then later just ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’, the ‘keep’ pile teeters ever higher.  Each declaration of ‘forever love’ cracks my heart open and takes my breath away.

So I’ve stopped purging the books.  It’s not just the books they’ve inscribed to me, there are the books we read together and the ones I discovered on my own.  The collection of titles is a biography of my life.  Maybe they’ll just sit in boxes for a year.  Time will reveal which souvenirs I yearn to keep and which are redundant.  But for now, I’m hoarding my memories.  And I’m okay with that.

  1. Beautiful, K. As a fellow book hoarder, I relate, and those memories and signed love are indeed precious. It’s important to have your heart cracked open, on a regular basis. Thank you for sharing.

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