Sometimes a title gives away the story. That’s why we’ll wait to the end of this introduction to tell you what BoomerCafé’s Ranter-in-Residence, Maryland’s Carrier Slocomb, calls his story today: “Downsizing Be Damned.”
“What stuff would you say I no longer need, honey?” We’re looking over a blur of piles in our basement storage area, in our home for decades. Incidentally, the section slated for removal belongs to me. I’m the largest stakeholder of stuff down here and it’s “tackle-it time.”
“You make the choice,” Caroline replies.
Such ambiguity isn’t helpful. I wonder what would happen if I no longer walked the planet? Would my wife unleash our children on my precious piles?
“What’re you, kidding? It’s all important! I got an Apple IIC buried in there, an Oliver typewriter (and yes, it’s an Oliver, not an Olivetti), priceless rock albums, 60’s collectibles, and centuries’ old hand tools my Dad handed down … not to mention some cool Civil War things, family farm items, and really old china!”
“Auction them off, or better yet, share them with the kids. We’re downsizing, Carrier. Remember?”
Alright already, Caroline’s right. We’re “downsizing,” doing what so many of us do after the last kid leaves the nest. Still, my wife’s remark comes like a sucker punch to a mature belly.
Caroline gives me a quick squeeze and heads upstairs. She faces the same decisions I do. It can’t be easy for her either.
This is the part of downsizing I dread -– it’s become emotional. Truth is, I was raised by Depression-era parents, so I was built to horde. After all, you never knew when good times might go bad and you’ll need those jelly jars of bent nails, old rubber bands, or that pallet of paper bags from the grocer. How many tough moves have second-hand guys like us lifted through? Same number as our wives, I imagine, and yet Caroline seems balanced and emotionally healthy, while I circle often, veering back and forth, unequipped for downsizing and generally getting us nowhere.
[Carrier’s new book – The Great Great Blue – is available now at Amazon.com]
It’s impossible to concentrate, so I drop down on a bench; there to grind teeth and ruminate. Searching my manly GPS, I find no way out of this emotionaldead-end. Auction stuff off, or divide it fairly between seven grown children? I can hear my internal man-glacier squeal and crack.
Downsizing be damned! Why can’t we just never do it? Why can’t we leave everything as is until we … you know? Both our moms hung on like hearty house plants, and we grew up in neighborhoods where people stayed to the bitter end, to be found by friends or church buddies during daily check-ins.
It sure makes life a lot easier to ‘go’ at home and leave your loved ones the cleanup. Perhaps my argument with Caroline should be, ‘Let the kids fight for their legacy! Survival of the fittest, I say.” But that’s not being loving, so I reconsider: DON’T FIGHT, TRADE! Unfortunately the illusion fades when I picture all seven kids yanking one anothers’ hair out for the Apple IIC, the china, and musket.
Anxiety builds. Downsizing stinks. I seek serenity and there, barely visible in the far corner, are the curved wooden handles of an ancient garden, or pony plow. I remember the day Dad and I wrestled it out of Pop’s two-hundred-year-old barn. Other memories crop up. Three large chests of hand tools from the eighteen-hundreds, hardcover books from my grandparents’ to my parents’ library that sit in boxes. Cane chairs from the 1820s, built by an itinerant carpenter who once wandered villages along the Connecticut River. A cherry table my mother cherished, and a huge dry sink from the old homestead, built in 1746 and wrestled out of its niche in 1961.
And, the Civil War musket. What was it Dad told me? “You don’t own any of this, Carrier. You’re just curator of our family’s most interesting hand-me-downs.” A link in the old family chain, zigging across two states and ten generations. Pity, because what I really should have said was, “Seriously Dad, is this an honor or a curse?” But I wasn’t father to seven children back then.
It’s around this time that I wonder if we should exit this headache and rent a booth at our local antique shop? I’m keen to hear Caroline’s opinion; after all, shouldn’t my latest idea end this nightmare of uneven distribution, hair pulling, and future family fights?
Downsizing! I’d rather eat a whole jelly jar of bent nails.