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Today in My History

2000:  Be Prepared
2001:  You Have to be Carefully Taught
Visions of Sugarplums
Whine and Cheese
Hard Times Call for Harsh Measures
Grandpa Josiah
2006I Hate Dogs
2007: Things You Love

2008: "Loose Lips Sink Ships"

The Sykes Family Christmas Letter

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Books Read in 2009
Updated: 11/16
"Dragonfly in Amber"

Recipes for Cousins Day Drinks
(updated 9/4/09)


Where No One has Gone before... from Bev Sykes on Vimeo.

And on You Tube

Look at these Videos
Stupid, Callous, Homophobic, Hateful Legislation
This is Amazing--Tragic, but Amazing
Today's the Day
Web Side Story

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New York Trip

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4 December 2009

I supposed I watched the opening segment of Season 2 of A&E's Hoarders just to convince myself that we aren't that bad.

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The episode focused on a woman who had to buy a second house because they had run out of room in the first house in which to keep all of their stuff, and the bank was threatening to foreclose on both houses.

I will admit that as I watched the show, I was standing in the kitchen cleaning up the counter.  (I discovered it's blue--did you know that?)   I didn't want to turn around at the end of the show and feel like I was still watching the show!

We aren't that bad, little thanks to me, and most of the thanks to Walt, who at least keeps the downstairs part of the house from filling up with piles of stuff on the floor.  But there are a couple of rooms that might give one of those hoarding-specialist psychiatrists something to sink their teeth into.

kerry.jpg (26706 bytes)I knew I wasn't as bad as this poor woman, who had to physically touch or see and approve everything that was thrown out before it went into the dumpster and who had a melt down when someone thoughtlessly threw away a tiny piece of a broken floor tile that matched two other broken pieces that she intended to fix some day.  (They never did get her house decluttered, apparently.)

OK...Even my kids have to admit that I am notthat bad.

But as I watched the psychiatrist work with her and try to gently guide her into throwing away some things, I began to identify with the poor woman and I knew exactly how this whole thing started to get out of hand.

I've been obsessed with "making memories" ever since I was a small child.  I remember obsessively taking photos (with a film camera) at age 10 for the sake of "making memories."  I couldn't tell you what I was making those memories for but I knew that it was important to "make memories."   One of my favorite things to do as a small child was to look through my mother's old photo album, which I knew by heart, and look at all the pictures of myself and my sister as we were growing up.  When I got my first camera, at age 10, I got my first scrapbook and the rest, as they say, is history.

I also could never resist--even as a small child-- the lure of what Walt and I have come to call "the ubiquitous gift shop" that magically appears, sometimes out of nowhere, whenever you travel anywhere.  It was always important for me to save something as a memory of some place we'd been.  Again, I couldn't tell you what the purpose of saving it was, but it was important to "make memories."

Our kids' lives have been photographed almost with the diligence of a paparazza, making certain that every event in their lives, no matter how insignificant, is documented.  I wanted to give them the joy that I always had going through my mother's scrapbook.  Of course my mother had one scrapbook and I have too many to count, and they are hidden away in our official hoarder room and rarely does anybody look at them.

Nothing in our house is worth much monetarily but every bit of junk that you see has some "memory" attached to it, whether it's something a kid made out of wood and string, or a stuffed animal that is no longer recognizable as a toy, or 33-1/3 records that we have no turntable to play on, but which tell the whole musical history of our lives from high school until the invention of the CD.  There are so many little souvenirs of so many trips to different places that mean absolutely nothing to anybody but me, and possibly to Walt. 

What can I say?  I'm a sentimentalist and I understand the hoarder woman feeling her heart torn out because that bit of tile was important to her.  

I'll tell you the truth.  If someone came in here tomorrow and gutted the house, my anguish at losing everything probably wouldn't last more than 24 hours and I would be relieved to be rid of it all.  But to have to physically go through every little tsatske, every photograph, every book, every CD, every spoon (I collected spoons for awhile) just seems overwhelming and so you let it go for another day...and then another day...and then soon you find that your children's spouses glare at you because they know what's going to happen when you die, and your kids roll their eyes and tell you to just start getting rid of it.

But where do you start?  Tossing the little styrofoam man made by some kid so long ago I can't even remember who made it?  The little statue I bought at Hadrian's wall, which is broken (but repaired) and which I love for reasons I can't put into words?  The stuff that belonged to Gilbert?  That baton which may or may not have been used by Arthur Sullivan?  I stand in the middle of a room and my head swims.  Maybe I can part with a couple of things, but how can I throw out that thing? or that thing?  In the end, I haven't even made a dent. 

There is also the money factor.  I can never justify spending much on most of these trinkets I pick up on trips, but nonetheless, collectively they represent a chunk of change and I feel guilty if I just throw them away.

I would love to be ruthless.  Many years ago, in the years when I was into crafts, I made something for a friend and gave it to her, so proud of what I had done and so sure she would treasure it for the memory it evoked of our time together.  Many, many years later, she was clearing out junk from her house and gave me a box of books and things that she thought I might like to have, one of which was this craft project, wadded into a ball and stuffed in a corner of the box.  She obviously didn't remember that I had made it for her.  She also had never treasured it the way I thought she would.

I'd like to care so little for things like that that I can dump them. But I can't. 

My mother is frantic these days because she wants to get rid of "all this stuff" in her house.  I look around her house and wonder "what stuff?"  All I see is order, and nothing of much sentimental value whatsoever, other than photos. 

I may be many things but "my mother's daughter" in the area of "memories" is definitely not one of them.

But I did clean off the kitchen counter.  Or 3/4 of it, anyway!  Walt got home from work and asked if he was in the right house.


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This isn't our house....but it could easily be.



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