I remember reading once that Andy Warhol, at the end of every week, would take everything on the top of his desk and place it in a box, seal the box and date it, and then send it off to a storage facility. There are archivists who are meticulously going through each box and cataloging all the contents. Among the mundane they have found some of the artist’s early sketches, personal notes, and invitations to parties.
I can understand the desire to save everything.
If you were to look in our garage, or our basement or in my husband Greg’s office or in the storage unit he acquired as a peace offering you would find: four golf bags, eight pairs of white golf shoes, enough fishing gear and tackle to outfit a fleet of boats, high school trophies, seven briefcases, four desk chairs, lots of furniture, hundreds of boxes, dozens of paintings, old magazines, and filing cabinets filled and spilling out.
Greg’s parents, Georgie and George, had lived in a giant four story brick colonial up until the time Georgie died. This was the house they moved to when George retired from the Air Force and where they had raised their children. The house was filled with 25 years of accumulations from high school and college and parties and neighborhood events and held so many memories.
It’s always a hard decision to give up what you have known for such a long time and start over in some place new but it was time for George, as he was aware, to downsize.
His having to move without Georgie had to be particularly difficult. But he was moving into a nice apartment in a respectable retirement community. Most of the furniture would move with him.
The main obstacles in downsizing were the basement, the library, and the garage. Georgie’s sisters were recruited and they worked with Greg’s sister, Gail, to start to cull through and pack up the house.
This left for Greg and me and Jimmy, the garage.
Here in front of us was a two car garage packed from floor to ceiling with an assortment of belongings. It was like peering into an amazing archeological site, amassed in a giant puzzle that all fit together precisely as planned. But once you removed the first piece the entire structure was going to collapse like a giant Jenga puzzle.
I was fascinated with all the objects. I grew up in a very small cinder block home in South Florida and we simply did not have the room to accumulate and store this type of collection. Maybe that’s why I just don’t hold onto things.
Our best plan of attack was to work our way from the front to the back and try to separate objects into one of five categories: 1) going with George to the apartment; 2) going into storage; 3) going to Greg or Gail; 4) going to Goodwill; or 5) going into the trash. I soon discovered that it was going to be very difficult to get objects classified in the categories four and five.
There were many boxes that apparently had been shipped from the Philippines and never opened because the contents were still wrapped in newspapers dated from 1969. We found delft china, a lovely copper fondue set, and several sets of beautiful small crystal glasses. There were boxes of linens and place mats with matching napkins. There was also a collection of stunning antique furniture. The decision to keep these treasures was easy.
The trash determinations were difficult.
We began to amass a sea of discards down the front driveway: old and broken ten speed bikes with the front wheels missing; Tupperware with no lids; stacks of newspapers and magazines; rusty tools; moldy backpacks; beat up gas cans; a large assortment of jars and tin cans.
On the second shelf of a bookcase on the side of the garage I found a large b0x of rubber bands. Perhaps rubber bands that Greg had used for his paper routes as a teenager. And, sure enough, when you pulled one out of the package and tried to snap it, it would disintegrate. Seemed like an easy decision: I placed the box of rubber bands on the trash pile and moved on. But about twenty minutes later, Greg was walking down the driveway and spied the rubber bands. He turned to me and said, “What are you doing? These are perfectly good rubber bands.” He proceeded to take the rubber bands to the garage and place them back on the shelf.
When Greg’s back was turned I took the rubber bands and buried them in a pile of cast- off plastic bowls in the driveway. I was sure he would never notice and I just needed to know they were going to be thrown away. I’m not saying I was being particularly rational. I am saying that I was on a mission.
Around lunchtime Gail emerged from the house to review our progress and offer sandwiches, chips, and sodas. She began to inspect the cast-offs and throwaways and don’t you know she came across those damn rubber bands!
This is where I should have quit. After all, this wasn’t personal to me. These weren’t my mother’s and father’s worldly goods, but those ridiculous, useless rubber bands were taunting me.
It seemed to become my sole purpose to get rid of them. After lunch I snuck back into the garage, grabbed the rubber bands, and wrapped them in the used napkin from my sandwich. Then I went over to the trash can and threw the napkin, rubber bands, and an empty chips bag into the can and shut the lid.
I must admit that I started to feel a little petty about the rubber bands, not petty enough to go fish them out of the trash but maybe just a small twinge.
About this time George came out to examine the progress. He walked slowly down the driveway, leaning his tall lanky frame on his cane, and peered intently into all the piles assembled to be given or thrown away. He retrieved one small figurine that he thought had been his mother’s. Then he noticed an empty chips bag that he asked Jimmy to pick up for him. It did not even occur to me to try and stop him when he began to walk over to the trash can. He lifted up the rubber bands, turned around, and said, “What are you doing? These are perfectly good rubber bands.”
With that, I walked over to George, took the rubber bands and placed them back on the shelf in the garage. Clearly, the rubber bands were meant to stay with the house. And stay they did – I am almost one hundred percent certain that the rubber bands were sold with the house. For all we know, they are still sitting on the second shelf. Maybe that’s the way it should be.
The way things are, Greg has a storage unit that pretty much resembles his parent’s garage. Sometimes I think he goes there and hangs out with his stuff. Who knows, maybe years from now Andy Warhol’s archivists will be going through Greg’s storage unit.
If they find my year book from 1978, my freshman year in high school, I hope they will let me know.
Kim Dalferes is currently finishing her first book I Was in Love with a Short Man Once. Rubber Bands is one of the stories from a section entitled The Rest of the Stories. The book includes her adventures as: a young girl of limited means growing up in South Florida; a managing by the seat-of-her-pants co-ed; a working single mother; a federal official; a public speaker; and a second-time-around wife. She lives and writes in Fairfax, Virginia with her husband Greg, her dog Taz, and, occasionally her son Jimmy when he is home from college.