Like a crumbled up paper from a writer’s bad first draft, I tossed my little ballet recital tutu straight into the trash. Sequins, satin and all. Swish.
I imagine half of you are gasping, “You could’ve repurposed/recrafted it. Maybe in a frame with a sweet quotation!” The other half of you are mentally high-fiving me in the name of minimalism. “That tutu would’ve jammed yet another closet.”
At the time, I thought about humanity’s great tulle master: “What would Degas do?” He’d paint the image for posterity and not worry about the thing itself. So I stood there in my childhood bedroom, snapped a few iPhone shots, and then pitched my dance costume into one of the many garbage bags scattered around the house.
That week there were bags for charity. Bags for recycling. And, unfortunately, bags for the landfill — one I topped off with a powder blue tutu.
My ballet teacher was a meanie anyway. That might have been the frock she insisted I try on in front of the class in a cavernous gymnasium just because I missed the costume distribution. I remember feeling mortified (what if the janitor walked in?) but don’t quite recall if I refused.
“Today me” hopes 6-year-old me remained defiant. Anyway, never save anything that stirs up negative feelings. Even a childhood tutu.
That decision was a mere snippet of the week I just shared with my siblings and parents. My folks are “rightsizing” away from their Long Island home of 55 years. They’re off to a cozier, sweeter, more convenient place near my brother’s home.
The great archaeological dig itself turned into yet another family story. We did not have enough time to methodically sort out the vast half century accumulations. Getting all of us together simultaneously was a task in itself. It turned into a frantic situation.
The big purge went beyond stuff from the five of us. My brothers and I realized other generations had handed too many possessions down and across to mom and dad. Parts of their home served as a museum for other dear ones. We found Great Aunt Bessie’s early 1900’s postcard collection. Great Uncle Jean’s French chef paraphernalia. Aunt Agnes’ wedding album. So many keepers.
I think almost every feeling a human can experience rattled my bones that week. The shock of how time passes. The wisdom of realizing my third grade teacher’s red ink commentary of “pretty good” wasn’t the flattery I once thought, but likely passive-aggressiveness. (Was she colluding with the tight-bunned ballet teacher?)
Then there was the sadness of glimpsing old letters, and photos of long-gone loved ones in cat-eye glasses and galoshes and fin-tailed Chevys. And the joy of discovering my portable Smith Corona typewriter I lugged a thousand miles away to college. All along I thought it was gone.
Maybe nothing is ever really gone. We are the summation of all our experiences and missteps and victories and misfortunes and horrible brown bell bottom pants we had to sew in Miss Henderson’s home economics class.
The one thing that will never hit the landfill is our family humor. Wisecracking is the sweet old teddy bear that keeps us secure. Both my brothers, per usual, had me in stitches that week.
One walked through the door and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Sorry I’m late. Woke up to some fresh credit card fraud.” The other brother, after fully realizing our mom’s penchant for saving used giftwrap flotsam, coined the week’s catchphrase: “I hate (bleeping) bows.” Everything we didn’t want became a “bleeping bow.”
And then there was my mom’s line after seeing a fancy Victorian era photo of a relative: “She looks like she just boarded the Titanic.”
I guess it was jarring/beautiful to sort, toss and cherish. And I know in my heart we will always be the five of us, no matter where we live.
Onward and upward with a lighter load, new experiences and many more laughs. Life itself is the true ballet.
Reach Denise Snodell at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DeniseSnodell