I’m sitting in my newly streamlined living room, candles burning, music on the stereo, drinking bourbon from a beautiful, heavy highball glass, with the computer on the Chinese leather trunk that serves as my coffee table. I didn’t think my house was over-furnished or over-decorated before but I have to admit, it seems more peaceful in this somewhat minimalist version. Maybe it was overly stimulating before.
So I’m taking a break from the packing. I figure I need it, having dropped the big-screen television the other night as I tried to move it, alone, from a high space to a lower space. Blam! It fell forward face-down. It was only an 18-inch drop, but enough to reduce what had been a scene from Downton Abbey to an artful kaleidoscopic display. I didn’t even bother to curse. The mishap solved a dilemma I had been pondering–whether to sell the (relatively new) television or try packing and moving it. Problem solved: I’ll just put in on the curb Friday for bulk pick-up.
Today I took a signed oil painting to the Miriam Shop, a non-profit organization that sells donated home furnishings and art. The proceeds benefit a school for learning-disabled children. The painter was an art professor at Washington University in St. Louis, the subject was a matron with a stern expression–probably a widow, judging by her grey dress and black-veiled hat. My ex-husband and son both considered the woman scary, but I gave her credit for her mustard yellow gloves. They were the tip-off to either some repressed strain of rebellion or dark humor, I’m not sure which. The painting was very good and, in the past, I would have made the effort to sell it. But I decided instead to just let it go. I hope she finds a good home with someone who appreciates the cuffed yellow gloves.
I also dropped off a partially finished needlepoint canvas of seashells, and the yarn to finish it. It’s pretty clear I wasn’t going to get around to completing the piece–I started it in college and have been carting it around the country for, what, more than 30 years? My good friend Lee and I used to sit and needlepoint and talk while eating iced sugar cookies we snitched from Lee’s roommate, Leslie. It probably wouldn’t have taken much time to finish the needlepoint–I’d done most of the complicated parts–but if it hasn’t happened so far, it’s time to admit I’ve lost interest. Until now, it’s just been too easy to pack up the basket of yarn and carry it on to the next port. If it’s meant to be finished, the task will have to go to someone else.
The standing gilt Buddha I inherited from a friend who died of AIDS is now wrapped in tissue paper. He, too, is bound for the Miriam Shop, along with a pressed-tin barrel-topped chest my college boyfriend refinished for me. I’ve been using it to store wrapping paper and, let’s face it, I don’t wrap that many gifts anymore.
I’m kind of amazed at how easily I’m letting go of things. When I first started editing my possessions, each decision was fraught with emotion as I considered who had given me the item or been with me when I acquired something, the events surrounding my acquisition, the family history I might be discarding. Now I seem willing to let things slip away rather effortlessly.
Maybe it’s because the associations are so long ago, like the wrapping paper trunk and my college boyfriend. Or that I don’t need the needlepoint to remind me of the pleasures of sitting with Lee and chatting. Or that I internalized the artfulness of my friend, Donna, who died of AIDS and her Buddha is extraneous. Those people and events are part of me, not a garment I have to wear to remember them.