Saturday, November 06, 2010

Cut to Tom Petty singing "Refugee"

Ok, so in the last post we covered the fact that I am a person who seeks geographical solutions to life's problems.

I'm not comfortable with calling it "running away from my problems" because I am not so much running to or from anywhere, but rather, rolling up the homestead, packing it in the ol' wagon, and rolling back to the roots more often than not. Basically, with minimal effort involved, my problems would have no trouble finding me.

That said, I admit that I have spent a healthy chunk of cash on u-hauls, pizza, and cases of beer to compensate helpful friends in the last few years... Much more than I would like. And yes, I have thought quite a bit about how my nomadic lifestyle has kept me from pursuing certain things, and probably a few relationships. But it has also provided me with interesting opportunities, random jobs, and some really great friendships that I would have lacked otherwise.

Living like a refugee has some definite pros and cons.

This most recent move has not only landed me back in my hometown, but in the house where my grandparents lived. This particular situation, too, has pros and cons. For example: Living in hometown - Con for night life, pro for cost of living. The house is paid off - DEFINITE PRO. The grandparents lived here for more than 50 years and didn't throw much away in all that time - MOSTLY CON, with the occasional random found object becoming just amusing enough to be register as a pro.

Yes, I could go on with that list for a while, but I have a feeling I am already starting to bore all two of you whom I have retained as readers, so I will stop.

The point of this is, when I talk to the friends I have amassed elsewhere, and they ask how the new place is, or if I have found work yet, or the other run of the mill questions you get from people who don't see you everyday, I do have things to tell them despite living like a shut-in at present.

The new place is lovely, despite being full of all kinds of crap. No I haven't found work yet, though I admit to busying myself with other endeavors instead of REALLY hunting for that next job. Essentially, I look at the job ads for a little while and then I busy myself with what I refer to as the big dig. I have spent weeks digging through every drawer, cabinet, closet, nook, and cranny of this place, shuffling through mountains of papers, photos, odd little knickknacks, boxes upon boxes of utter nonsense, and pretty much anything else you can imagine amassing in more than 50 years while living in the same house.

I should probably explain something. No, my grandparents were not hoarders. They were, however, children in the depression era. This led them to save things that were vaguely useful just in case they might be needed later. Also, they saved newspaper clippings from 1974, (and every other year,) not because they were particularly interesting, but because at the end of a full page article covering some local event in great depth and detail, my grandmother's name appeared for some banal reason one paragraph from the bottom. This would be fine if there were just one or two of those, but we are talking about tons of loose little newsprint clippings that aren't mounted for preservation because they have some great significance, but rather stuffed in an envelope, and dropped in a drawer because my grandfather ranked fourth that week in a local golf outing in 1958. Apparently this was worth remembering... Just not important enough to actually do anything with any of it.

To boot, in a world before email and that ever-so-convenient delete button, my grandparents were tireless correspondents. They retained their pen-pals from all over the place for decades. Unfortunately, they also retained every letter from every person who ever wrote them anything. I suppose as pros or cons go, this one could go either way, because some of it is vaguely amusing, but for the most part it is just heaps of crap that must be sorted one piece at a time... But now I know that my aunt had tennis elbow in the spring of '74, and that my great aunt had some money troubles back in '53, and I also know that all too frequently many of these letters contained pictures. Mind you none of these pictures qualify to compete with Annie Liebowitz, or Ansel Adams... We're just talking about the run of the mill shots of the back of my cousin's head, or my mother falling asleep at the dining room table, or some random house in Dayton, Ohio, or snow on some residential street somewhere in Vermont. (Riveting, I know.)

Don't get me wrong. Some of it is great. I do have the advantage of being lucky enough to live in a house that is paid off, so I can take the time to sort through all of this, and some of it does admittedly shine a light into the more darkened corners of my family history, but at the same time, I don't really care about the vast majority of it, and yet ALL of it still has to be painstakingly examined and sorted, one piece at a time.

You're probably saying to yourself, "Just chuck it all and start fresh!" And as far as I am concerned that would be the ideal. And perhaps this is my nomadic-refugee lifestyle piping up, but seeing as I lived without all of this other stuff all these years, having it all thrust upon me now seems silly. And if it were up to me, I would most likely give the majority of it a general once-over and chuck most of it... But you see, there is a fly in the ointment. My family knows I am here. They know what I am doing here. Some have readily embraced it and encouraged me to do anything in my power to make this house my own. Which would mean purging many of the the remnants of the past. But there are others... OH YES... OTHERS.

The others are the rather nutty (not in a good way) members of the family. The ones who essentially think that this house ought to stand as is, and essentially be a shrine to the former residents. They seem to believe that nothing should be touched or moved, or (GASP!) thrown out because at some point my grandparents thought it was important to keep.

I'm sorry, but I don't look at a user's manual for a toaster purchased in 1964 and think to myself, "This is truly a precious heirloom! It must be preserved and handed down to future generations!" (That seems to be the thinking of the "OTHERS.") Meanwhile my thinking is, "Jesus, what the hell is this doing here? It is clearly in with other manuals and instructions... Including the manual for the 1976 model toaster that replaced the old '64... (12 years is a pretty good run for a toaster if I do say so myself) And the envelope all of this is in is clearly only a few years old, so someone had to look at all of this... WHY DID WE SAVE IT? Why do we still have assembly instructions for a weed whacker? It's two screws on the handle and then you move the little lever and pop on the wire spool at the bottom... Did we save that in case one of the screws fell out and a mentally handicapped person was recruited to do the repair job? I don't think we need the assembly instructions anymore... WAIT, THERE ARE THREE SEPARATE WEED WHACKER MANUALS... WE ONLY HAVE ONE WEED WHACKER, AND IT ISN'T ANY ONE OF THESE!" Clearly my thinking, while much more long-winded, is also much more logical and rational. Upon completion of examining all the manuals contained in the manual envelopes, my next thought was, "Why was this all stored in the dining room in the cabinet with the nice table linens, and why is there also a cache of incandescent light bulbs and three rotary phones in here too?"

There isn't any real rhyme or reason to any of this, or how any of it was stored. Heap on 8 grandkids and 5 great grandkids all sending every little art project imaginable, and obituary clippings and funeral cards for anyone who you ever breathed on and you're starting to see how things add up.

You can see how I have occupied my time lately.

In the words of Shakespeare, "Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more..."

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