Word of Mind, Word of Mouth

Clear the clutter, but keep the memories

Special to The CambrianApril 12, 2013 

My only real disappointment was that I didn’t get to see the ghost. Perhaps the recent shift in energy put him off: the death of my brother-in-law on Sunday, death of his cat the next day and then my arrival, full of vim and vinegar to try and set things on a positive path. I’d be a bit put out, too, if I were a spectre.

Actually, the trip south was rather like seeing ghosts all around as I made my way to my sister’s house in the town I’d lived in for some rather formative years. While I’d not lived in this particular house (she took over the rental from my mom after she moved up to Cambria), the neighborhood evoked memories of many visits there.

“I remember when they built that McDonald’s and how exciting that seemed in high school! Oh, the Angeles Crest Highway and all the parties … Egads!” Probably 25 years have passed since I spent more than a day or two in that town. But, my job this trip was to help relive fond memories with my sister to try and fill the now rather quiet space of her home.

While that was certainly accomplished, the other task was to help “relieve” the house of “memories” and to make the space more habitable. As “collectors,” they had more than their fair share stacked, boxed and otherwise stashed in every nook and cranny. How does one decide what’s worth remembering and what’s not?

Heroically, my sister made monumental decisions about her situation. The end of a 36-year relationship is a good starting point for a new outlook on life. I mean, what else can you do? Well, I know some folks wallow in it for years. But, she is my sister.

Phone calls to pick up broken cars, boxing up hundreds of albums, bagging what could only be defined as refuse — I was so proud. Almost overwhelmed by the scale of the project at hand, I was still encouraged by the progress made in my short visit. There is still much to do, but I’m confident it can be accomplished.

In fact, her last words to me as I was pulling away were that she could now do this. In fact, if our other sister came this weekend and worked on one room while she was gone and “disappeared” things without her looking/knowing, she’d be OK with that.

That’s an interesting concept. A dear friend, close to my family, wondered what would happen to a person like this if you sent them on a little trip and cleared things out while they were gone. Would they go into mental collapse? I don’t know, but my sister’s parting words made me feel much more hopeful.

What else this visit did was freak me out about my own living space. Yes, I have boxes of my kids’ old artwork, letters written by my late mother and pages of really stinky writing from high school and after. One curio cabinet, much artwork and some bowls of heart rocks. Was I “collecting” too much?

Love of My Life watches while I fixate on little knick-knacks sitting in windowsills and vintage kitchen gadgets that are cool, but our limited counter and shelf space really don’t support their display. Today I started into boxes of memories and photos. Will it ever end?

I pause, call my sister to check on her (she sounds good!), look around my cozy, clean, funky, welcoming abode — and calm down. But, vigilance!

Dianne Brooke’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at tiedi@att.net, or visit her web site at www.ladytiedi.com.

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