Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Personal Museum

Mice have taken up refuge in our basement.  Each time we have the heater serviced, the technician finds about have a dozen carcasses behind one of the pipes, which we send to a mass grave at the public landfill.  We do not know how they get there.  The annual visit from the termite preventer includes some guidance at control as well.  We place a few spring traps that never get activated, some warfarin that may or not provide lethal intervention when they return outside, but the population seems constant.  A tour of the basement indicates that the rodents like to stay warm near the heater as their terminal event, but they have a more free range into the nooks and crannies where I have not been, and onto some of the benches and shelves where I have been.  The exterminator's suggestion, which makes sense for a lot of reasons:  rid the house of cardboard boxes where things are stored. 

When I moved from St. Louis for the final time, I boxed all my possessions, shipped them by UPS which had limits on how much I could ship to one address so I used three, then gathered them all into my father's basement in Monsey.  They eventually found their way into my basement, unopened since 1977.  They have occupied a far wall in the basement, the best starting point for the decluttering project.

There is a grander purpose, of course.  We tend to be hoarders, a notch or two below the pathological ones of reality TV but enough so that none of our living spaces have an open look.  Many a semi-annual plan has called for decluttering but never materializes.  This time it might but we need to start with by tossing stuff that has no justification for retaining.  Rodent habitats seem like a good way to begin.  And so I schlepped about eight boxes from the far wall of the basement to the two bins sitting in front of the garage door, one dedicated to recycling, the other for the landfill.  Most of the boxes contained my school notes and term papers, largely from high school a few from medical school.  There were favorable comments and critical comments, some in red ink, some in black ink with grades ranging from A- to C.  The high school stuff had report covers so that went into the trash, the notes did not, so those went into recycling.  As my prime productive years have come and gone without accumulating the fame that would give these auction value, none were saved for Christies.  One exception, though.  Part of a single box contained my Bar Mitzvah mementos, unfortunately including a few Thank You notes that never found their way to the mailbox.  Postage was apparently 5 cents in those days.  There was a check with my mother's signature to the synagogue that never went out and three kippot with my name stamped in gold.   A few photos were retained, all in good condition except for one nibbled around the edges.  There were thank you notes and photos from friends' Bnai Mitzvah and an invitation to an aunt's 50th anniversary celebration.  Those do not need auction value.  All fit into a very small box which I tucked away next to my desk in a living room nook.  At my father's shiva, my stepmother handed me some photos, mostly from the World War II era.  The contents of that Bar Mitzvah era box should get similarly distributed at my shiva.

Everyone has to deal with a past, present and future.  High school certainly has some lasting fondness.  Rediscovering some of those people on Facebook and seeing others at periodic reunions should suffice, or at least turn past into present.  I do not need to keep the old term papers in my possession, particularly hidden possession.  The present and hopefully near future will include less cluttered living space with some selectivity over what is left on display.  Even the Smithsonian is selective.

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