Life is absurd. And life is precious. Family is a lot of both.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

He’s a Keeper

I married a man who does not throw away anything. I suspect that may be part of the reason we recently celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. He can’t bear to get rid of anything so I feel pretty secure that he’s going to keep me around—along with his spiral-bound notes from high school, the hockey trophy he got when he was 6, and the mounted-on-shellacked-wood-in-the-shape-of-Missouri awards from Boys State in the late 1980s.

If we had fewer kids, and therefore more spare room, we could dedicate our whole basement as a museum of his childhood. There is a poster-sized, framed print of his wrestling match at the 1986 state championship. He has his letter jacket, horse show costumes, old hockey skates and sticks, report cards, and embroidered jackets. That’s just high school.

From college he has fraternity jerseys, innumerable party pics, more spiral-bound notes, a wool blanket he picked up in Mexico, and the softball from an intramural championship. It was at about this point in his lifetime of collecting stuff that I met him. Fell in love with him. Married him. Moved across the country with him. Looked around and said, “My gosh, you have a lot of stuff!”

It’s been a battle all of these years, I have to tell you. Not necessarily because I begrudge him his memories. But because few things in life make me happier than tossing out stuff. My stuff. His stuff. Your stuff. It doesn’t really matter. If it will fit in a Hefty bag and clears a spot on my counter/floor/shelf/drawer, I get a rush. I positively love trash day. My husband grumbles if we put out more than one can of weekly garbage. We are a family of eight people and four pets, I remind him. He looks at me as if I’ve suggested stuffing one of the kids or our spare parakeet into the trash. I just shake my head at him and go inside, where I may or may not fill another bag and stash it on the curb in between the time he leaves for work and the garbage truck arrives.

If there’s one thing a long marriage teaches you it’s that what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

Because we moved 10 times in 21 years we remained intimately aware of all the stuff we owned. If you have to touch it on one end of a move and unpack it on the other end, it’s hard to deny that so much of it exists. Over the years the man mellowed a little bit and let me whittle away at his memorabilia and weird attachments. He has inched his way ever-so-slightly to my dark side. Yet we still found it necessary to rent a storage unit when we moved back from overseas in 2006. Here it is, seven years later, and those folks love us since we pay faithfully every month to store our stuff. In their space. At our expense. I absolutely do not understand why we do this, but, because I love my husband, I put up with it and write the check.

And, because he loves me, he finally got around to building a storage shed in our own backyard. It was intended to be a pretty little shed to store the, you know, stuff. It has become a custom-built kind of carriage house with window boxes, an old door, and a pitched roof. It’s not even quite finished but it makes me happy every single time I look out my back window. Before long the final trim will be nailed and we will begin moving our stuff from its sad and lonely storage unit to the beautiful place this keeper of mine has created for it.

After all these years it seems to be a win-win. He keeps his stuff, I have a beautiful view. However, if you should spy me sneaking out an extra bag early on a Monday morning, just keep it to yourself. Like I said, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

Labor of love.
Whether it's love of his wife or his stuff doesn't really matter in the end, right?

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