Time to clean the garage

My garage was looking pretty good until I cleaned out the storage locker. That 10 x 6 cubicle that Fred and I rented “for a few months” in 2001 was jammed with stuff that was getting mildewed and mouse-eaten. It wasn’t worth paying $45 a month to store things I never used. Where did I put everything? In the garage, in my single-car cobweb-covered already-full garage.

We’re talking camera and computer gear, an old TV, a semi-broken chair, a nightstand from my in-laws’ house, sewing paraphernalia and fabric up the wazoo, ancient stereo components, the old dog crate, boxes of old newspapers that I wrote articles for in the ‘70s, and books, books, books. Mucho stuff. Plus I save boxes just in case I might need to mail books or move, and I’ve got Fred’s wheelchair, clothing I’ve been cleaning out of the closets to give to Goodwill or somebody, and umpteen plastic bags and bottles that need recycling. It’s a good thing I have a relatively small car.
When I unloaded the storage locker, it was snowing. This is . . . September? Right. It’s been on my to-do list, honest. Well, one day last week, after I got a particularly nasty comment about something I had written, I tore into that garage. I worked up a sweat going through all the junk and putting it into piles: Goodwill, church bazaar, recycle, the dump, and oh maybe I’ll keep it. I’m happy to report the latter pile was small. Some things I might have kept but for the rust or mildew that made me not even want to touch them. Out, out, out.
The trouble is that everything contains a memory. It’s not just stuff; it’s my life. I remember when I used to develop film in the kitchen and print pictures in the bathroom with black cloth blocking out the light. I remember when I read all those books. I remember when I made the dress cut from that cloth. I admit I’m a saver, although not quite a hoarder. The older I get the more I like hanging onto my memories. But I can’t keep all this stuff.
So far, I have hit the recycle center and Goodwill and loaded the bazaar stuff into the car. I will go to the dump soon. And I’m going through those boxes of newspapers and tossing most of them. I remember each bylined story and what it was like to be a young reporter running around Gilroy or Milpitas or Pacifica in my VW bug doing interviews. I loved those days. But . . .
There’s one box I’m not tossing. It contains jacks, marbles, balls, a wooden flute, a harmonica, a couple of dolls, hopscotch charms, and other toys. I still want to play with my toys. Why not? They’re mine.
As the garage empties, I feel freer and lighter. But this is one of those jobs that don’t stay done. On my way home from Goodwill, I stopped at a garage sale, where I picked up a suitcase and a George Foreman grill for $3. What a deal. Now, where am I going to put them?

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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