Growing up in post-World War II, small-town New Mexico left its mark on many of us.
We watched our mothers and grandmothers saving everything, in advance of running out of or being caught unawares. It didn’t matter that we were on the cusp of the “throw-away” mentality going into the ‘50s — saving, recycling — doesn't matter how you want to euphemize it, it’s the way it was.
Clothing, a necessity. Hand-me-downs, a given. It wasn’t really hoarding, it seems to me, but a real awareness that for someone, sometime, somewhere, “it” could come in handy.
Fast-forward to 2008, and the scene befuddles. Why, for example, have I kept my Brownie camera from the ‘50s, not to mention its various successors of box cameras, my extinct Instamatic and all the flashbulbs (no film, nevertheless)? Never mind that I have an ‘80s vintage camcorder and a fairly-state-of-the-art digital gizmo. All but the digital occupy the top shelf of my oversized bookcase, along with my ‘70s copyright World Book Encyclopedia and the 20-volume set of Man, Myth and Magic.
Ahem! They come in handy for a superannuated literature teacher.
More clutter, er, “sentimental value” erstwhile state-of the-art computers — my original Vic-20, my Commodore 64 and all the truly “floppy discs,” Mac stand-alone and my Gateway, which a dear friend lovingly has nicknamed “The Behemoth.” I just cannot seem to discard these relics.
Yes, dear, former students, I still have your notebooks, all the graduation cards you sent, and your inscribed photos, the latter lovingly displayed in an oversized frame. My 30+year-old children’s toys and both their graduation gowns, etc. are secured somewhere at the back of one of my closets.
Surely I don’t think you’ll hand them down to your children!
So, while I don’t have a proverbial “string collection,” and I’ve discarded the bits of foil and rewashed plastic bags, I still can’t throw out my still-functional-but-unnecessary stand-alone dishwasher. Who needs a dishwasher to wash maybe a total of three place-settings or more likely, a frozen-dinner toss-away? (The dishwasher efficiently stores the plastic bags I periodically donate to Salvation Army.)
Every so often, I survey my “collections,” and I even relent by tossing this or that out, but it never makes a big dent in my clutter. Friends, foes and family look askance at my relics, but they”re usually too polite to comment (to me, anyway).
There’s an upside to all this eccentricity, however. Recently, Pedro needed plastic gloves for his biology lab, and voila! in my utility closet, I had a boxful. He was the hero of his Anat. and Phys. Lab, as he cavalierly provided enough for others in his class. On various occasions, he has needed an item or another, and I’ve been able to dig these things out. He kindly stated, “You have everything.”
My purse, also, is notorious for containing “everything.” Last month, Elijah, my grandson, the “ring bearer” at my nephew’s wedding, popped a button. My son, Eli, knew exactly what to do. “Mom, do you have your sewing kit with you?”
Of course I did, the button was reattached, and the wedding was not marred! A few years ago, while I was accompanying a group of students, one girl pricked her finger, and I was the only one in the crowd that had a band-aid and antiseptic cream in my purse. One student nicely commented, “Miss, you’re always prepared.” I accept these comments graciously.
On the other hand, besides the modern digital camera I mentioned, I recently agreed to accommodate my guest “son” Pedro by letting him subscribe to some Portuguese Dish Network programs, and wow, right now am utilizing a digital converter on my laptop! I guess there’s hope for me yet. That is, unless I add these new commodities to my “sentimental” holdings once they’re hopelessly outdated.
No, I will not join “hoarders anonymous” or any such group. I’m issuing a public statement, nonetheless. I promise to try to do better, henceforward — whatever that means.
Lupita Gonzales is an educator and member of the Optic Editorial Board. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.