When my son was small he had an obsession with throwing things in the trash – car keys, remote controls, cordless phone. In return, I developed the habit of storing my trash in the basement until we had a chance to miss things. A carefully orchestrated rotation of black bags prevented the accidental disposal of a treasure.

My husband says I have never recovered from that habit. Our basement is lined in storage boxes and plastic bins. And our son is in his twenties so I am not too concerned about his ability to separate trash and treasure. It seems I am the one with this affliction now.

But what do you do with baby shoes, rattles, baseball uniforms from ages 5 – 20, bats and gloves, school projects, souvenirs from around the world – including a Mexican Sombrero – baskets, tins, books and more books, wrapping supplies, Christmas decorations, and the list goes on and on?

Looking for anything takes too much time, so I purchased a label maker. But labeling requires an inventory of what’s inside of each box.

And as that takes place, the stories that arise around the items flood me with scenes from the past – an inventory of memories.

One box holds old photos – pictures of us in our youth, our muscle cars – Z-28, Mustangs, Firebirds – our horses from before we had our son. Of course those stay.

An old bottle that once held sparkling apple cider from Normandy – the label in French – is a piece of garbage to anyone without a memory attached to it. For me, it summons my first trip to France, the five other friends who were there, the laughter and how little sleep we all got. It holds Leila’s sharp wit, Susan’s sparkling laughter, Karen’s broad knowledge, Laurie’s fierce determination, Paula’s sense of humor and my own sheer happiness to be sharing those moments in Paris and Normandy. Don’t even think about touching my bottle.

And so it goes!

I don’t think it’s hoarding as it is all neatly boxed and there’s plenty of walking-around room. I don’t keep every bottle, just ones that trigger a memory or have value, like the old Mountain Dew bottle with the picture of a mountaineer chugging from a jug on it. My son found it when we excavated the property in order to dig the basement.

Hurricane Hugo had snapped trees on the forested piece of land where we panned to put our house. They lay entwined on their sides. My son and I were trapped alone when Hugo managed to skip across land and take a Northwestern turn into the hills where hurricanes didn’t go. Power and phone poles as well as fallen trees blocked the road on either side of our house. The power box was ripped from the side of our home as well as its attached pole. We had no electricity for weeks.

All that from a green glass bottle!

My husband says I should donate the books. Are you kidding me? My son will most likely have children one day and I will prepare a room in our home and line the shelves with the little Golden books that I read to their dad. Others were given to me by my dad.

There’s the giant ‘I Want to Read’ book that I learned to read by. And of course it follows that a whole scenario of my sister – three years older – going off to school without one or the other of her books as I wanted to know everything that she did, crops up in my mind. I couldn’t wait to go to school and she despised it! Don’t touch my books either.

The dollars in the safe are sand dollars. Fragile, they need the security of the hard sides of the vault. They aren’t just souvenirs, they summon summers in Chincoteague, Virginia, digging in the surf and sand for conch shells and sand dollars. One perfect one in a summer was pure gold for us. My son and I can take one out and hold it in an open palm and it’s like time travel to the past. Suddenly there is a breeze, the sound of crashing waves and calling shore birds. Try getting that from a green paper dollar! Impossible – leave my sand dollars in the safe.

What can go? What must stay? I try to find objects that have no meaning. It’s harder than I thought.

Oh well, I can get rid of the baskets and the magazines and maybe…no, not that.

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