I finally did done of those exercises that many home organizing experts recommend: taking those boxes of stuff you haven’t opened in years, and getting rid of the whole schmear. If you’re a stickler for rules, you might say I cheated: I opened the cardboard carton before I donated the contents, but I think it was a better exercise that way, as it increased my tolerance level for giving away items that once had emotional import for me.
I kept the items I really will use: two bath towels and a beach towel. They’re in better shape than a few of the towels in my linen cupboard. I’ll donate the three linen dish towels after I run them through the washing machine. Other keepers: a green Depression glass plate, and an antique toy that belonged to my grandfather (more on that later).
The donations: a bag of glass “beads” that were popular in the early 2000s for decorating – in floral arrangements, maybe. Who remembers? I picked them up in a Free box at some yard sale or other, planning to put them into a clear glass bowl for display. I’ve always been a magpie, attracted to bright, shiny, colorful objects. The Hazel Atlas pale yellow Moderntone Platonite platter was also easy to let go of – I’d already taken its companion plates to the local antiques co-op and received a pittance for them. Some admirer of mid-century modern or Depression glass can go ga-ga over the platter and the thrift shop can make a few bucks for the local hospice. The cobalt blue platter that matched my Fiestaware? I didn’t even recall buying it, and it had a chip on the back. ¡Chau chau!
The antique blue mirrors were only slightly harder to say goodbye to. I found them at garage sales decades ago when I lived in Western New York, and I kept them on the coffee table or an end table for years, with other glittering tchotchkes on them. What I really wanted was an antique art deco table with a blue glass mirror top, but those were beyond my budget and pretty scarce. I finally found one at another sale, a beat-up coffee table for $20, and when I moved into my own apartment in Western Mass six years ago, they began appearing at the antiques co-op like mushrooms after rain. Now I have two end tables that match the coffee table, plus another, squarer coffee table in the living room that holds the TV and DVD/VHS player. There was so much blue glass in that room, it began to resemble a pond, and I had to take an end table upstairs to use as a holder for my bedside reading. It matches the 1940s bed frame and the waterfall dresser perfectly. So my need for cobalt mirrors has finally been satiated.
The only item in the box that I plan to keep for the rest of my life is Ducky – a velveteen-covered, felt-winged, stuffed toy duck on precarious wheels that was a childhood toy of my maternal grandfather’s. David Spring died of pneumonia when my mother was less than two years old, so a few black-and-white snapshots, the objects he left behind, and half my reclaimed name are my only connections to my grandfather. I have happy memories associated with this toy. When we were in elementary school, my brother and I tied a cotton string around his front wheels and used to tug Ducky – gently, given that he was probably 50 years old at that point – around the house. Seven or so years later in my senior year of high school, I went through a crazy-adolescent period – caused by not only the stereotypical raging hormones, but also my parents’ separation and impending divorce and my questions about the safety of coming out as bisexual and my enormous crush on a younger student in my art classes who was too busy dating college boys to notice me. I tried my damnedest to get her attention with 1960s-style “happenings” in the school hallways, even once or twice getting into a black plastic trash bag and chanting for peace as John and Yoko had in 1968 (they’d used a black velvet bag, but I was on a babysitter’s budget). I brought Ducky to school to use as a still-life subject (I still have the drawing; it’s not bad for a high school student) and of course had to pull him down the halls on a leash.
Ducky’s fabric has now faded to a dull gray, he’s had only one wing since my grandfather’s childhood, and his aluminum wheels are so oxidized they’re almost black. But he’s earned a permanent spot in my home, and I’m sorry I left him in a box for 6 1/2 years. Maybe I’ll put him on a blue-glass-topped table where he can happily reflect on his 90 years.