This Is Animal Crackers

When I was a kid, we spent large chunks of the summer at my grandfather’s house in southern New Hampshire. On one visit, we went to Benson’s Wild Animal Farm in nearby Hudson. Benson’s was part zoo, part circus, part kiddie amusement park. I have vague memories of seeing some animals in cages, watching some animal shows, and riding around the park on a little train. Feeling nostalgic recently, I wondered about the history of Benson’s; naturally, I turned to the Internet.

Original Newspaper Ad for Benson’s Opening in 1926.

I learned that Benson’s opened in 1926 but was in a period of decline in the 1970s when I visited. A new owner, Arthur Provencher, bought Benson’s in 1979 and tried to create publicity for the place. One stunt was an attempt to put the zoo’s 500-pound silverback gorilla on the primary ballot for the 1980 presidential election. Colossus G. Benson was driven to Concord, the state capital, to file the forms, but he was kept in the parking lot on a truck trailer, since a gorilla free in the statehouse was deemed too risky. Instead, a chimpanzee in a white tuxedo was sent inside with a note that declared Colossus’s candidacy. Provencher argued that nothing in the US Constitution prohibited animals from running for president. His dream was dashed when Colossus was rejected—not because he was a gorilla, but because he wasn’t thirty-five and didn’t meet the age requirement.

Colossus G. Benson Presidential Trading Card

Ultimately, Provencher was unable to turn Benson’s Wild Animal Farm around, and it closed in 1987, the victim of the economy and a growing understanding of how animals in captivity should be housed and treated. The land it sat on was eventually given to the Town of Hudson, who turned it into a public park in 2010. Some of the original landmarks, like the Old Lady in the Shoe shoe-shaped building and Colossus’s cage, were restored as part of the rehabilitation and are now available for families to explore. The new park gets excellent reviews on Trip Advisor, with one 2013 reviewer, Amanda6500, noting, “I think the favorite part of the park was the gorilla cage that the kids can play in . . . There is a gorgeous mural on the back wall and the kids seem to love the novelty of being in a cage.”

That metal-on-metal sound you are hearing in  your head as you read this is my Internet research coming to a screeching halt, as my brain, fully functioning in 2019, screamed, “Wait. What!? Do they though?” This casual 2013 comment was really jarring when juxtaposed with the fact that our current government has an actual policy of keeping kids in cages.

On an average day in the United States in 2019, our government has more than 2,000 kids being held, without their parents, by the US Border Patrol. In theory, the law says they can be housed for up to 72 hours, but then they are supposed to be released to a relative in the United States. In practice, kids are often kept much longer, and over the last couple of weeks, we’ve learned more about the conditions in which many of the children are held. They are often housed in make-shift cages with a mat on a concrete floor to sleep on. Sometimes, they don’t even have that, if the guards take the mat away as punishment. The government also withholds showers, soap, toothpaste . . .

One Trump administration lawyer tried to argue that they were only charged with maintaining “safe and sanitary” conditions, and soap and toothpaste were unnecessary to meeting that requirement. This prompted clapback on Twitter from Michael Scott Moore, who in 2012 was kidnapped and held for two and half years by Somali pirates. On June 22, he tweeted, “Somali pirates gave me toothpaste & soap.” David Rohde, a journalist kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008, retweeted Moore on June 24, and added, “The Taliban gave me toothpaste & soap.” What does it say about us when the US government has lost the moral high ground to pirates and the Taliban?

Meanwhile, we’re arguing semantics. Are these “concentration camps”? Does this constitute torture? The Trump camp argues no, but under a different presidency, if this were happening in a different country, we would be discussing human rights violations and talking about UN sanctions. A June 21 report by the Associated Press noted after a visit to the Clinton Detention Center in El Paso, Texas, that “kids are taking care of kids, and there’s inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens at the Border Patrol station.”

The outcry after the report was so great that the acting head of Customs and Border Protection, John Sanders, stepped down, and most of the children at Clinton were removed to a tent detention center. But they still remain in the custody of US Border Patrol. I don’t think “Kids in Cages” was the legacy Sanders wanted to be remembered for. We citizens need to continue pointing out the depravity of the situation until the Trump administration as a whole is shamed into following the law and treating immigrants and asylum seekers humanely.

Thus far, however, the current government shows no signs of either shame or willingness to act to rectify the situation. Perhaps then, we need to get Ndume on the New Hampshire primary ballot. He’s a western lowland silverback gorilla who currently lives in the Cincinnati Zoo. Ndume is thirty-seven, so he meets the age requirement. He knows a modified version of American Sign Language, so he is probably better at communicating than some currently serving in government. Most importantly, Ndume knows what it is like to spend life confined—of course, his “cage” has plenty of room and is designed with his health and well-being in mind.

Text © Rebecca Bigelow
Photos © 1 & 2 public domain; 3 from The Lego Movie;
4 screenshot (6/30/19) of Moore’s Twitter post.

RESOURCES

On the history of Benson’s Wild Animal Farm:

On what is happening at the border:

On Ndume:

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Cake and Sympathy

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At one particularly stressful job, a colleague gave me a Marie Antoinette doll. When you press the button on her back, her head flies off with a satisfying thwack. It was very cathartic. Unreasonable deadline? Thwack. Overly demanding boss? Thwack. Thwack. Ranting company owner? Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Marie’s bewigged head would roll around on the desk as we chuckled through our do-it-yourself therapy sessions.

I’ve been thinking about that doll a lot lately as the US government shutdown enters its thirty-fifth day.1 Like Marie before them, certain members of the ruling government can’t seem to help themselves from making tone-deaf statements about the laid-off government workers who have now missed two paychecks.

One White House aide likened it to a “vacation.” The president’s daughter-in-law opined laid-off workers may suffer a “little bit of pain” now, but their grandchildren would thank them later. The Commerce Secretary, a multimillionaire, expressed his inability to understand why unpaid workers needed to use food banks. The president himself suggested that stores would gladly extend credit to furloughed workers, like they all shop at an idyllic 1950s mom-and-pop-style market that keeps a ledger under the counter to track their thirty-cent bread purchases. Newsflash! It doesn’t work that way anymore.

Granted no one close to the president actually uttered the words “Let them eat cake,” but neither did Marie Antoinette, and look where just the rumor of her saying that got her.  Still modern politicians have come perilously close, and they definitely lack empathy for the paycheck-to-paycheck workers. Meanwhile the pictures of government employees lined up around the block to get food handouts are eerily reminiscent of 1930s Depression-era breadline photos.

It should be obvious that it is rude to suggest the peasants eat cake when they don’t even have bread, but I’m not sure everyone got that memo. I see memes from Facebook friends and other internet commentators that suggest these laid-off “nonessential” workers mean that the government is bloated, and the United States should seize the opportunity to “right size” the government.

I try not to reply to these sorts of provocation on social media. Well, to be perfectly honest, I try not to post replies. I confess to angry-typing responses: Click. Click. Clickity click. Click! Of course by the time I’m done with my scathing retort, I usually feel better and cooler heads can prevail. Then it’s Delete. Delete. Backspace, backspace. Delete! After all, it is unlikely we’ll change hearts and minds in as few as 140 characters or a single paragraph, so engaging is usually futile.

Still there are times when I can’t help myself. Recently, one too many people suggested that 800,000 government workers were extraneous, and we were well shot of them. So I did reply to a post; I likened those laid off more to cannon fodder for the whims of erratic politicians, since many of the so-called nonessential workers were actually being called back to work without pay. It’s easy to call a job nonessential if it doesn’t directly affect you personally. But the same could probably be said of my job—or yours—by someone who doesn’t need the goods or services that you or I provide at any particular moment.

Meanwhile, the president and the people in Congress play a game of political chicken with federal workers as the unwilling hostages. Now I do have a side in this fight. For the record, it is this: Never negotiate with terrorists (political or otherwise) because if you do, they are much more willing to try the same tactics in the future. Also for the record, it is obvious—or it should be—that a thirty-foot wall is ineffective, since you can just go down to the nearest hardware store and buy a thirty-two-foot ladder. Assuming of course, you’ve received a paycheck recently.

So to me, this whole shutdown is manufactured pain for political theater, and it’s ridiculous. For two years, there was no crisis on the border that required urgent border funding, but as soon as the US House flipped political sides, it was a calamity of epic proportions.

And as absurd as this “thirty-five days and counting” shutdown is to me, I’m sure to the laid-off federal workers attempting to keep their lives together it is beyond ridiculous and frustrating. And the cost to government workers and their families doesn’t even address the other collateral damage elsewhere: destruction in national parks, FEMA funds withheld in disaster areas, the potential that SNAP benefits won’t be paid, scientific research that is ruined or put on hold, crimes that aren’t being investigated due to lack of funding, and now a major East Coast airport shut down by the FAA due to staff shortages.

This has become a rapidly moving story. I began this opinion piece before any sign of an agreement was on the radar. Then suddenly today, as LaGuardia shut down and I was getting ready to go to press, there were talks underway to reopen the government for three weeks, so a spending deal could be negotiated. An announcement quickly followed to that effect, but with it came the threat that the president could shut down the government again or declare a state of emergency if he didn’t like what Congress came up with.

I’m glad they stopped the pain for furloughed workers in the short term, but now politicians need to get down to the hard work of passing a budget that we can live with, one that keeps the government open on a long-term basis, so that we don’t repeat this game of political brinkmanship and that potentially only postpones the pain of furloughed workers. And while money can certainly be appropriated for better border security, it is my hope that politicians don’t saddle taxpayers with paying for an ineffective wall.

I believe our politicians can do all this, if they can find a modicum of sympathy for those affected by their actions, including both asylum seekers and US government employees. Unlike Marie Antoinette (life size or six-inch versions), we can end the shutdown properly, if we keep our heads. Forget “Let them eat cake.” Get this done, so affected families can just eat.

Text © Rebecca Bigelow
Photo © Ken Hawkins, Wikimedia

1. I began writing this piece on January 23, 2019, with an aim of posting it on Friday, January 25. When I started writing, the stalemate seemed insurmountable, but when the dam broke this morning with the LaGuardia closure, things moved quickly. By the time I was ready to post at lunchtime, rumors were swirling that the president would announce a temporary ceasefire in the shutdown. Given these changes, I spent the evening revising this piece to reflect them.

Exorcising Your Right to Vote

I once cheerfully disenfranchised my whole family. We were taking a vote on something trivial: what movie to watch—Mulan vs. Aladdin. My husband and kids voted for one movie. I voted for another. Gleefully, the kids crowed about winning. I doubled down.

“Put your hands down!” I ordered. I pointed to the twins. “You two aren’t old enough to vote.” Then I pointed to my husband. “And you can’t vote in this country because you’re English. Since I’m the only one in this family both old enough to vote and a citizen of the United States, I win!”

See how easy it is to make it hard to vote? There are all sorts of ways that people can try to take away your vote. Gerrymandering is a fun one. We once lived in Pennsylvania. After we left, the district we were in became one of the most gerrymandered in the United States. The press called it “Goofy kicking Donald Duck.”

Goofy Kicks

Donald looks more like Stitch to me, but regardless, the Republicans in Pennsylvania cheerfully created this district to give themselves more seats in the legislature by grouping together as many Republican votes as possible. Here’s how District 7 looked prior to this 2003 gerrymandering.

PA 7

And when we lived there, the district had even more regular boundaries than that! But lest you think this is only a nefarious plan on the part of Republicans, the Democrats are guilty too. Here’s Maryland’s District 3, which a local politician once said looked like “blood spatter from a crime scene.”

MD 3

Of course, gerrymandering is not a recent phenomenon; in fact, it takes its name from a former governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry. Gerry was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and James Madison’s vice president, but he’s most remembered as the governor whose administration enacted an 1812 law that created more senatorial districts in Massachusetts, thus giving his party more votes. Since one of the newly created Boston-area districts was said to resemble a salamander, the press dubbed it a “Gerry-mander.”

Gerry-mander

Elkanah Tisdale political cartoon of the “Gerry-Mander”

But gerrymandering is only one way to favor a particular outcome in an election. If you can’t redraw the map to make it harder for your opponents’ votes to count in the newly rigged district, you could try implementing a voter ID law. Twelve states, all Republican held, now have strict voter ID laws where voters have to show an approved ID to vote. Eight other states (six Republican, a swing state, and a Democratic state) require the ID, but they will allow voters to cast a provisional ballot without it. The problem here is that voters have to return with a valid ID within a certain time frame (usually a few days) for the provisional ballot to be counted. Which ID is valid varies by state. In Texas, for example, you can show your gun permit, but your university ID doesn’t count.

Opponents liken this mandatory voter ID system to a poll tax because the voter usually has to pay for the ID, and it is often inconvenient for voters to get because they have to go to a centralized location. Poll taxes (essentially a fee for voting) began in the late 1800s in the South as a way to keep African Americans and poor whites from voting, although the latter might be “grandfathered in” if they had a relative who voted before the Civil War. The legality of the direct fee-to-vote system was struck down by the 24th Amendment in 1964. So of course, proponents of strict voter ID laws argue that these laws are not a poll tax at all; after all valid government ID is useful in other situations besides voting. But an analysis of the effect of voter ID laws show that, like the poll tax, they disproportionately prohibit minorities, students, and the poor—the very people who struggle most to find transportation to a state-approved ID facility and the money to pay for the ID—from voting.

Poll Tax

While you might think these voter ID laws are a legacy from years ago, they are actually a relatively new voter suppression tactic. Indiana was the first state to pass a strict voter ID law in 2005. The Supreme Court upheld the law in 2008, and additional states have piled on since. Proponents argue these ID laws are important for preventing voter fraud at the polls, but study after study has found there are actually very few instances of impersonation voter fraud—the type that a voter ID would prevent. According to Justin Levitt, a professor with Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, that number is 31 attempts in more than a billion ballots cast since 2000. That result doesn’t even round to a hundredth of a percent; it is basically zero.

If you’re not a fan of looking at terrible voter ID pictures, you might choose to make it physically harder to vote. You can do that by closing polling places or shortening the hours of voting (both in the period leading up to the election when absentee ballots are cast and on the actual day of the election). This tends to create long lines, causes confusion on where to vote, and often forces the voter to have to travel farther to get to the polls. Again studies show this tactic disproportionately affects minorities and the poor. In the South alone, after part of the Voting Rights Act was struck down in 2013, almost 900 polling places were closed in areas that served these populations in the period leading up to the 2016 election.

And if you find it too much trouble to close down the polling places, you can always just drop people from the voting rolls (sometimes without telling them), prevent released convicts who have served their sentences from ever voting again, change the rules about how the voter has to go about registering, or any number of other methods politicians use to keep people from voting—usually in the fear that the masses won’t vote for their candidates and thus the only way to win is to game the system.

vote here

Sure, it feels great for a minute or two to win that election because you suppressed the vote (after all, I still feel sure my favorite Disney movie, Mulan, is superior to Aladdin,* one of  the kids’ favorites [Mulan is literally a kick-ass female lead; what’s not to love?]), but if we disenfranchise other voters, a tenet of our democracy is lost in the process. If the politician (or parent) has to rig the system to win, they aren’t really representing the will of the people. In the years since the movie incident, I’m pleased to report that my husband became an American citizen and the kids are now duly registered voters. Their votes each count equally to mine, and that’s how it should be.

On Tuesday, November 6, voters will once again head to the polls to vote in the midterm elections. As we’ve seen, plenty of people want to suppress your vote. Don’t let them. Please check your local requirements and take the time to let your voice be heard. It belongs to you alone, and it matters.

Text © Rebecca Bigelow
Photos from Wiki Commons

Additional Reading

 

*Hey, Aladdin fans, I like your movie pick. I just like mine more! YMMV.

On All Hallow’s Eve

 

The artist down the street
Gave delicately iced, arched-back
Black cat sugar cookies.
The people in the castle
Gave homemade popcorn balls
That stuck in your teeth.
The neighbors ’cross the way
Gave gooey caramel apples.
But we always hoped for
Store-bought candy.

And now, you can’t give
Hand-crafted goodies
Because parents are afraid
Of razors in apples,
Or drugs in cookies,
Or worst of all,
Of not knowing
All the people
In the neighborhood.

I guess irony is knowing you
Only wanted Snickers as a kid,
But as an adult, you are sad
That homemade sweets
Have gone the way of the dodo
At Trick-or-Treat.

Text: © 2017 Rebecca Bigelow
Clipart: WikiClipArt

A Bit of Doggerel


It’s Valentine’s Day—at least for a few more minutes. If the checkout line at the grocery store yesterday is any indication, lots of people got stuffed animals and big pink cards covered in glitter (lots of glitter) in my town today. I tend to prefer a more low-key day (because I am too frugal to see much point in buying a card for eight bucks that will be looked at once!), so my day was perfect for me: No grand gestures, just dinner with my husband and son and a chance to Skype with my daughter who is away at the moment. Spending that kind of time with loved ones is definitely my idea of a successful holiday. Whether you celebrated romantically with a partner, as part of a family gathering, with a friend or two, or just enjoyed alone time, I hope your day was as perfect for you as mine was for me.

Although my Valentine’s Day was lovely, there have been some irritants in the last couple of weeks. What better way to slay those dragons than with a bit of fluff and fun? I think I’ll call this collection Poems from Cranky People. Writing them made me feel better. I can guarantee these little bits of verse will not end up on a card you can buy at the grocery (not in pink, not at any price, and they are definitely glitter free), but perhaps they’ll make you smile.  Enjoy the last few minutes of the holiday!


Foreshadowing by Rebecca Bigelow

Each February we pretend
That some rodent can portend
The duration of our wintry state.
But I wish it would prognosticate
Something of more import.
So if, in fact, we must resort
To using a groundhog named Phil
To predict the future, then he should spill
Whether we will suffer, over our objections,
At least six more months of politics and elections.


Lightning Bugs by Rebecca Bigelow

A light glows briefly in the dark.
And like the mating call of a firefly,
Another answers it.
And soon the lights are twinkling.
Everywhere.
Some flashes last mere milliseconds.
But some can be measured
In moonlights and cups of cocoa.
And I wonder why
It is so important
To check your damn phone
In the theatre.


 

One Day at a Time

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How long is a day? Generally speaking, we say a day is twenty-four hours. Scientifically speaking, a day is 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds. When is a day not a day? Apparently when shipping companies are involved.

I recently placed an order with a large Internet company. Let’s call them Yangtze. And I have their annual subscription shipping service. Let’s call that Fibonacci. With Fibonacci you get free two-day shipping on in-stock items. I adore Fibonacci, and I often shop with Yangtze because of the convenience of having my purchases show up at my door in a brown box with the distinctive tape on it that says 0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 . . .

Last week, I placed an order for two mundane items: breakfast cookies (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk, yum) and a new case for my cell phone. The old one had finally fallen apart, and duct tape was no longer working to hold it together (even duct tape has its limits). The Yangtze interface said that my items were in stock. I put them in my basket and checked out. The shipping information said I would receive my package on Wednesday. The items had said they were eligible for two-day shipping, so I thought that was weird. By my count, they would arrive on Tuesday. But I figured I’d ask Yangtze Customer Care (YCC) about it after I placed the order. It wasn’t a big deal; I didn’t need the breakfast cookies, and the cell phone case and I could limp along for another day. It was just a curiosity thing—after all that’s what this blog is about. I finished checking out and immediately opened a chat window with YCC.

Full disclosure: I’m a night owl. I placed my Yangtze order at 1:45 a.m. on Friday (the hours between Thursday night and the Friday business day). So at 1:50, I asked my YCC person to explain why my package was going to take until Wednesday to arrive. Our (very polite) conversation went something like this (edited for length/punctuation):

YCC: You need to place an order before the cutoff time to receive the order with two day shipping. As the carriers won’t be working on Saturdays and Sundays, it takes time for the package to be delivered.

Me: But even taking that into account, there is Friday and Monday, so it should arrive Tuesday at the latest, not Wednesday.

YCC: The cutoff time is over so if you place the order now, the two day shipping will be considered from Monday, i.e., Monday and Tuesday, so you will be receiving the order by Wednesday.

Me: So basically, even though we are only 2 hours into Friday, with an entire business day left, you don’t count it?

YCC: You need to place the order before Thursday to get the two day shipping by Saturday.

I explain again that I wasn’t expecting Saturday delivery, nor was I counting the weekend in my reckoning of two business days. But if they count Saturday for regular delivery, then shouldn’t my package arrive on Monday? I didn’t even want to ask that!

Me: But there is still plenty of Friday left.

In fact, for those keeping track, there were still more than seven hours before the start of the business day on Friday.

YCC: If the carriers would have been available we would have happily shipped the packages for you. Carriers won’t be working on Saturdays and Sundays.

We went around like an Abbott and Costello routine a few more times, and she offered to pass my feedback along to the higher ups, which I agreed to, but ultimately we ended the chat because we weren’t getting anywhere. And I was still getting my stuff on Wednesday.

When the chat transcript was emailed to me, I noticed that the chat was time-stamped in Pacific Standard Time. It was still Thursday where she was while we were chatting. I briefly wondered when my package would have arrived if she had placed the order, but it made my head hurt.

Then, the next morning (but time-stamped 2:55 a.m.!), I received an email from Yangtze. It informed me if I wanted to order that late and still wanted my package to arrive on Saturday, I’d have to pay for shipping. Otherwise to get Saturday delivery, I’d have to order before the cutoff time on Thursday to get it delivered for two-day on Saturday.

So at least two people at Yangtze agree Saturdays count for two-day Fibonacci delivery if you order before Friday, but Saturdays don’t count if you order on Friday. And Fridays don’t count either if you order on one. It’s a good thing Fibonacci two-day shipping only is valid in the United States. I think Fibonacci shipping across the International Dateline would open a rift in the space-time continuum. Perhaps it is my fault. My whole life I’ve probably been wrong for counting the 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4 seconds of Friday in my week. Although, frankly if we have to not count a day, I’d prefer to give up Monday. I think most people would agree with me on this.

And just when I’d resigned myself to Yangtze’s fuzzy math on day counting, my package arrived.

On Tuesday.

Text: ©Rebecca Bigelow; Photo: Public Domain

An Update (2/14/16): A couple of weeks later, I placed another mundane order on a Thursday night, but this time it was a couple hours before midnight instead of after. That package arrived on Monday. I believe I will build a Time Machine in the garage (assuming I can ever get work space in there), because that will be easier to figure out than Yangtze’s shipping policies.


Further Reading/Viewing:

The Tchotchke Two-Step

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At our house we have a semi-annual ritual dance known as the Box and Bin Shuffle. Its start date is not tied to the calendar, nor is it tied to a moon cycle. Instead it occurs when my husband hears these magic words uttered: Chance of accumulating snow. This year, the call came late—in deepest, darkest January—but we both recognized his call to arms when the Weather Channel announced the threat of four inches of the white stuff last weekend: Time to get the cars in the garage.

Now most reasonable people consider the garage to be a place to park one’s car(s) on a full-time basis. After all, this is definition one in any major dictionary. Most reasonable people are not married to my husband, however. We cannot always park cars in the garage because my husband suffers from an affliction known as “I might need that”-itis. In other words, he is a pack rat. After nearly 30 years of marriage, I finally have him on the road to recovery; so the inside of our house is no longer cluttered with stuff, but the garage is one of his last holdouts.

Our garage is where old computers go to die. There are jars of bits and bobs that might come in handy—someday—and boxes of old games and toys from when the kids were small. No one needs or wants to play the Sponge Bob memory game now. My husband even admits we do not need these things; so in the warm months, he pulls them out to sort them. It is excruciating to watch him decide what to keep, what to throw away, and what to donate. We disagree. Sometimes vehemently. To the point that I have now abdicated all responsibility for the garage. Why? I like staying married to him.

This last summer, our very organized daughter (a gene that clearly comes from my side of the family) helped him sort through everything. She placed like items in boxes and labeled them all. There were several trips to Goodwill and headway was made. But then August rolled around and she had to leave for band camp and other college things—although I thought seriously about asking her to take a gap year to finish the job. So, the boxes stayed pretty much where they were through the fall and into early winter. And my car sat on the driveway. Until the battle cry came once again: Snow.

And so he stood in the garage and said he would move things so I could get my car in there. I said, “Some of this stuff could just go back to the shed.” After all we were done mowing the lawn for now, and the kids had moved all their stuff back to college, so we didn’t need the empty camp trunks and such. My husband looked sheepish. “There’s no room.” Now I was gobsmacked. How is there no room in the shed when a bunch of this stuff had obviously come from there? Never mind. I didn’t want to know. Evidently, the pack rat recovery program is a work in progress.

So, he shuffled boxes to one side. Stacked bins on top of one another. “It’s all still labeled from this summer,” he said. “It’ll be easy to sort out next spring.” I didn’t say a word. In the past, I’ve threatened to donate the lot, but he says we can’t just do that. Some of it is important.

And the thing is, some of it is. It doesn’t help that we are at that life stage where our parents’ things are filtering their way to us. “It needs to stay in the family,” my mother says, playing on my sense of tradition and family history. “We knew you liked that stuff,” my sister-in-law said, handing over several boxes of papers from my husband’s side of the family. She was ostensibly here for a visit, but based on the number of boxes she pulled out of her trunk, I suspect she really just wanted her own garage cleared out.

And it’s true I do like this stuff. I like old birth certificates and family pictures. It’s fun to see my husband’s old report cards. I am just not sure I need his siblings’ old report cards or his unlabeled family pictures. Is that Great Grandma Sadie or some random former friend? Who knows! Someday, I may get to put these items in the recycling, but it is a process to get my husband to that point. I tried to instill the “if you haven’t used it or thought of it in two years, you don’t need it” rule. He upped it to five. Or maybe ten in certain cases. Oh, who am I kidding? We still have baby-proofing items in the attic. The kids are turning 21 this year.

And so, here we are. The threatened accumulating snow last weekend never materialized, but it is only a matter of time. He took a few more boxes to Goodwill this week. Baby steps. And I can, in fact, get my car in the garage now.

His still sits on the driveway.

 

Text: © 2016 Rebecca Bigelow;
Photo: Public domain from Wikimedia Commons


Resources:

The Ridiculously Thorough Guide to Decluttering Your Home. The website is for a dumpster rental place, but they actually have a lot of great advice for people who want to organize and declutter. If you live with your own pack rat, your mileage may vary.