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The Excavation of the Wife

February 24, 2013

Going Through the Storage Unit

“I have to cut down on expenses,” he said in an e-mail. “So I’m sorry but I need you to be out of the storage unit by April 1.”

The material remains and collections of my 43 years on the Earth was still in a storage unit that my ex-husband and I rented when we moved from our quaint little house in Ocean Springs to an apartment in Lafayette. He took his stuff out a long time ago. I’m the sentimental pack rat with all the junk. I couldn’t fit it in all in my tiny apartment. So, boxes of books and knick-knacks and photo albums and antique store finds and artwork and furniture sat unused and unneeded in a metal room on Pinhook Drive.

I planned for a garage sale with Liz and some friends. So, I needed to begin the excavation. I set out to achieve this task in the midst of a depression episode and existential crisis. I’ve been having a hard time lately. I’m in a funk. Kind of lost. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. I unlocked the padlock and yanked up the roll-up door and stepped in. It was surprisingly easy at first. Matching framed prints that hung in the old house: sell. Decorative crap, candleholders, book ends, storage bins, so many storage bins…..sell. No problem. My sentimentality didn’t fight me. A cute photo of the kids, take it out of the frame, and put the frame in sell pile. A little wooden statue of a happy couple, dancing: sell or burn.

I started finding some cool stuff. My dad’s old navy dress blues. Solid wool. They don’t make them like that anymore. And I fit in it now! A vase from the first post-Katrina Shearwater pottery firing. Pieces of art and coffee mugs that friends had given me. A big, colorful frog planter from Mexico. I excavated pieces of myself. Things that were a connection to people and places that were mine…..not ours.

At the same time, I felt disconnected to these things. It was like going through a dead person’s belongings. I looked around at all the stuff, like it wasn’t mine. Like the person who owned all this crap is dead now. I had the same feelings that inevitably occur when you go through your recently deceased grandmother’s or aunt’s or parent’s stuff. Most of us have done that at least once in our lives. Things go through your head like, “I can’t believe they have all this junk. Why did they keep all these things?” Then you come across something cool or something from your past and you exclaim, “I remember this. Wow I can’t believe this is still here.” A flood of memories follows. And in the middle of the work there’s the grief. And you find some relic and start to cry and the shock and despair of the loss overwhelms you.

I did all those things. I mourned the wife and mother who is dead now. I mourned the hope I had for the life I thought I was going to have. I got angry over the wasted time I spent, trying to mold myself to the others in my life. To make things pretty, orderly, decorated. To preserve memories of our life as a family.

One box had “Pieces of Cloth for Quilt,” written on the outside. “What is that?” I asked myself. I opened it and it came back to me. I am so sentimental that I’ve always kept certain items of clothing that have strong memories associated with them. Mostly my kids’ clothes but some t-shirts and things from my ex-husband and I as well. I couldn’t bring myself to give or throw them away. Years ago, I had the brilliant idea of cutting them up into uniform, neat squares and I would pay someone to make a quilt out of them. It would be the coolest quilt ever and I would hand it down to one of my kids and my grandkids and they would have this cool thing from their cool grandmother who had taken the care and time to preserve these unique artifacts of memory and life. I opened that box and there they were, about 10-15 little packs of uniformly cut pieces of cloth, each wrapped thoroughly in packing wrap.

“Good God,” I said aloud to myself standing in the middle of a chaos of piles of to-keep and to-sell items, “What a waste! What a complete waste of time. I’ve wasted my life!” I started to cry. I peered into the box and stared at the handiwork of someone I couldn’t recognize. A dead person’s work. I felt this incredible gratefulness not to be that person anymore. Not to be the woman who clung to meaningless material items. Not to be the wife that tried to control things in order to control her happiness. Not to be with him anymore. But at the same time I felt so stupid, so foolish for having been that person. For cutting up clothes into neat squares. For packing up a lifetime of accumulated frames and decorations in the hopes that they would be carefully arranged in a house we would eventually buy and spend the rest of our lives in.

I found myself sobbing in the middle of the storage unit. And then it hit me. It’s really all gone. This is the remains of a life that is gone. I was married for 20 years and it’s really over. The amount of energy and care and effort I tried to put into it…..was for nothing. I had a family once. Now I’m alone. All that work I put into my marriage and it was gone. I had built castles of sand.

After a few hours, my stomach needed food and I was emotionally drained. The to-keep pile was looking too big but the to-sell pile made me think I might make a few hundred dollars at the garage sale. I drove to the store to get some potting soil and some plants to fill up my newfound frog planter. I walked out the emotions and frustrations at the park. By that night I was dancing and meeting new people at the Moon. The dig site is still unfinished. The excavation will continue another day.


From → Rantings

  1. Rose permalink

    Good for you on taking ahold of this big task! Be kind to yourself during this time and keep reminding yourself of the “new you.” This was a lovely blog post.

  2. Kitten permalink

    Thank you Rose. That was Saturday. The universe gave the “new me” a little present that night. Wait for “I Dropped My Purse” for more. Thanks for the comment. I appreciate it.

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