S. is quietly playing with the many toys she got for Christmas. Fortunately our luggage space is limited, because with the cost of toys being about 25% less here than in Australia, I was tempted to buy a whole lot more. I think I did go a little overboard, but at least the grandmas respected our wish to keep things small, flat, light and easily packable.
Our trip to my HP’s house was brief. D. was carsick and spent a good portion of the time overcoming nausea. There was a brief debate whether he should rest in my step-mother’s bed or in my step-brother’s room. This surprised me. My dad said, “but there’s too much stuff on your bed,” to which my step-mom replied she would just move it to the floor. I asked my dad why he was calling it her bed and he said that he now only sleeps in his chair. Equally surprising, my step-brother’s room was not overcrowded with things and completely usable. So why were we not allowed to stay?
D. was able to peek in at my former bedroom and declared it was full. I was only allowed to look at the newly renovated master bathroom (only the shower was redone and expanded), and to admire the new (badly needed) carpeting and linoleum in the house. Both parents admitted the renovations had been exhausting and they had only just got the furniture back into place for our visit. Moving a hoard to re-carpet is a lot of work.
More disturbing than the house, however, was their blatant disregard for our boundaries. They had offered to take our daughter over night while sending us to the hotel. (Wait, there’s room for her but not for us?) I told them she would likely be scared as she does not know them well and that, while I appreciated the offer, she would be staying with us. While she was busy playing with toys they had out, they started in on her, “S. wouldn’t you like to spend the night with grandma and grampa so you can keep playing with the toys?” “Yes,” she said. I looked at her and said, “but Mommy can’t stay here with you and you will be alone with grandma and grampa all night.” That was enough for her to almost cry. She was not staying there without us.
We went to dinner, spent the night in a comfortable hotel, and went back to see them for two hours in the morning. It was S’s fourth birthday and they were kind to ask me ahead of time if the chosen gifts were appropriate. I totally appreciate their thoughtful gifts since she was destined to spend the entire day in the car. It was also nice to see them. But they were clear: they don’t have time to see us. My father said in almost the same breath, “I just don’t like to travel any more,” and “We’re going to Arizona to visit your brother in March.” It would be nice to know my father if he could be honest with himself and say, “I don’t feel like visiting you” instead of whatever nonsense he comes up with.
And the most disturbing news… The reason my HP is too busy to see us? He’s become Santa Claus. Anyone need a hoarding Santa for your holiday event next year?
The holidays have been blissfully minimalist this year with our new home, tiny tree, and usable Christmas gifts. Still, a part of me feels guilty for not buying D. more stuff. He seriously only got a few packs of herb seeds and a couple of candy bars for Christmas, just the way he likes it. The 29th was his birthday and our fifth anniversary and I was so far-gone into vacation mode that I didn’t even realize it was the 29th until 2 p.m. Oops. Happy Birthday, lover. I got you nothing, but I love you more than ever. The intangibles matter more, I know. But the culture of stuff is deeply intrenched in me.
As I catch up on my hoarding blogs, though, I realize the beauty in giving less. Last year at this time, my parents gave our daughter several large gifts that we obviously could not bring with us to Australia. It was so frustrating that they insisted on buying stuff that I mostly turned around and sold or donated rather than giving her.
This year, they tried to send her a package for her birthday. When they realized that it would cost more to send than they had spent, they decided it was better just to hold off. Then on Christmas eve (here), I got a frantic email from my HP father with the subject, “I’m late!!!”
My Dad was desperate to get money sent to us somehow before Christmas – as though we are small children who will cry on Christmas morning without a gift of some type under the tree. I told him it was entirely unnecessary, but he could send a check to our home in the States and it would get deposited. He followed through and proudly reported he got it sent before Christmas. What he doesn’t realize is that his frantic email detailing all the dramatic events in his small church was more than enough present. Like many HPs (or so I hear), my dad is a fantastic story teller. I’ve been asking him for some time to just write down stories about his childhood as he thinks of them. I even offered to give my step-mother an .mp3 recorder so she could ask him questions in the car and record the stories. When he goes, the oral traditions of our family are going to be lost.
I admit in the end that I’m glad to be impossibly far away on Christmas. D’s 70-year-old parents figured out how to Skype in on Christmas morning to watch S. open her presents, and again today to send more well-wishes. Mine were only concerned about sending the check on time. What is Christmas if it isn’t about enjoying each other?
Posted in hoarding roots, memory hoarding, Uncategorized, weight of things
Tagged Christmas, crap, father, hoarding, hoarding parent, HP, intangible, minimalist, story teller, tradition
The solution to the Christmas accumulation conundrum was to buy a small fake pine, about S.’s size, a package of mixed mini candy canes, some small santa koalas from the dollar store and about three other little trinkets. In total this decoration cost about $45, plus the $50 that flew out of my pocket somewhere in my neighborhood while I was walking home with the tree. (Happy Christmas, stranger who finds it!) The fact that I lost something bothers me more than the cost. Accumulator, I am.
Nonetheless, the little tree, not particularly well photographed here, was fun to decorate, only took a few minutes suiting S’s attention span, and part of it is edible. You can’t beat that. Or maybe you can. Tell me: do you other COH’s have a problem with Christmas decorations?
D. told me he couldn’t care less if there was a tree or not. I felt I needed one to get in the mood since it’s summer here. I put on some rocking Christmas tunes (including Elvis’s “Blue Christmas” and some more shameful hits), and genuinely enjoyed the time with our daughter. She was mostly interested in playing with the koalas, but she did dance a bit and asked for more Christmas songs. Frosty the Snowman was a big hit.
We moved into our new home yesterday and enjoyed the first silent night in about 5 1/2 months. Beautiful eerie silence. We also spent hours assembling furniture and putting things together so we could have the home just the way we like it. Odds and ends are still arriving, house begins to feel like home, and still I struggle not to over spend or over accumulate. Today’s debate in my head: how to decorate for Christmas with S. without buying crap I will store for the next 12 months.
In the midst of the moving, just moments ago I received the following message from a dear friend. I post here with authorization (merci et bisous à somewhereoverthepoutine):
i thought about you today. my mom just sold her house and forced me to get ALL of my shit out of it. I figured that i’d have a few boxes of girdles and whatnot, but holy shit i had like six boxes of books and two boxes full of school papers going all the way back to preschool.i spent all day whittling down my collection of school papers. i can’t describe how much it hurt to toss out drawings from when i was four!!!!! oh it hurt. anyway, you’re not alone in your hoarding struggle!!
Happy Christmas, y’all. You’re not alone as the holidays bear down upon you, laden with gifts and crap galore.
As we try to pare down our things, Christmas strikes. Our parents were rather restrained this year, preferring to give us cash over objects, but we still ended up with a pile of relatively useless things. I laughed when we opened more Chicago Cutlery, as that was one of the first items I successfully sold on craigslist. If nothing else, at least I used and successfully disposed of several bows and gift bags that had been lingering in our storage.
I was, for me, extremely restrained this year. Full aware that we can’t take much with us when we move, I had to opt for tiny toys for our daughter. For D. and me, our gifts centered around delicious food and electronics needed for our trip and life thereafter.
But for the last few weeks, every online shopping stop and visit to Target were accompanied by a sort of tug, holding me back, reminding me of how big a suitcase is. How do you choose what to gift within those bounds, all while knowing that in a few months we will have an empty home? I cannot lie: that new home needing to be outfitted with the basics (like cutlery) is beckoning me.
Among my box of Christmas decorations that gets hauled out every year are ornaments that have been inherited from my Grandmother, soon to be 88 years old. This year I actually opened an envelope that said something about a living will for a person I’ve never heard of. Inside the envelope: a flimsy cardboard crèche scene that I managed to throw in the recycling. There was also a never-opened “card-hanging string set” dating from 1964. I had no idea what it was until D. opened the package. Unopened since 1964, kept in an envelope for at least the last 12 years, and my non-hoarding husband had no trouble ripping open the package and setting the contents free.
We laughed about it and threw it out, but it nagged at me for a moment. Wait! That could have been valuable to someone, new in the package. It’s an antique. Ummm… yes, but a useless one, passed on from my hoarding inclined maternal grandmother.
I woke up in the midst of a long complicated dream this morning. Someone, a relative, had died. I was supposed to help a young woman (perhaps a cousin?) go through the house and prepare it for sale. After the real estate agent had been through the house, we set to work removing damaged Christmas decorations from the garage. Apparently the mother of the family had committed suicide, but we couldn’t work out why she had been preparing for Christmas if she was not planning to be around.
The garage was not filled to the brim (unlike the photo here), and we could walk around in it unencumbered, but there were various fishing rods and tackle, about 15 bicycles lined up, bags of Christmas decorations, and so on. Everything was very neatly organized in rows or tacked up on the walls. The sadness weighing on the house was clear as I tried to strip away the things that made it ugly. While I felt separated from the stuff, each object had specific memory engrained in it. But the hoarders had abandoned the collected things, and no one was home to guard it.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged bicycle, Christmas, collect, dream, fishing, hoard, memory, organize, ornaments, sad, stuff, tackle, things, ugly, weigh