Somewhere in an attic and/or storage facility that is not mine live three extra-large bins of Lego parts that represent the sum total of my boy's formative years. At one time each piece belonged to a set; some small, some supersized. Some years a Lego kit worth no more than $60 was all the kid got for his birthday.
I know. Let's walk that back. The value of $60 is highly subjective. To make things simpler, we can assume that $60 in 1994 in West Haven County (CT) was just not quite enough. I think if we'd made a big deal out of it, wrapped it up with ribbons and bows and presented it with big open smiles, it might have been more than enough. But we didn't. We were apologetic, sheepish, saddened, and guilty of all sorts of mostly unnamable things. This is the kid who remembers that his parents had to 'borrow' his birthday money (all $8 of it a handful of times) to put gas in the car and he never got it back.
I think he got it back but if he thinks he didn't get it back, that's the truth.
Eventually there were abundant years and the kid got more. I don't recall a birthday or Christmas that did not involve Legos right up until he was out of high school. That would explain the extra-large bins.
I don't have enough energy to explain why or how all those pieces parts came to represent the sum total of his formative years but my guess is he's not alone and you can do the math.
I guess the question is, why does he still keep these things? What's the root cause? It isn't because he thinks he might pass them on the way his grandfather passed on the original set of red and white bricks; at least not in any material sense.
I keep shit. No doubt about it. My mother keeps (kept) shit, my father's war game collection alone burst open an entire 12x14 room with two enormous closets. The Great Purge of 2021 nearly killed the man, or at least put great shards into his heart. Was it all about the war games? Probably not.
I've been purging at an alarming rate since November 2018 when I got ready to move us out of The Nest. Nobody wanted any sort of purging happening. Lucia flat out refused to participate. 26 large contractor bags hit the curb before I was done with her room and she still received several boxes of stuff she really needed to keep. I was a bit irked at the time but I think I understand now. Mike did show up. Mike showed up to take the Legos away but also to carry his share of the weight and a little bit more. Elizabeth cried and hung onto exactly twice what I told her she could keep. Probably more.
I tossed the family furniture. Almost all of it. I kept the things I received from my mother but the rest of it landed at the transfer station. Nobody wanted it. Nothing wrong with it, just nobody wanted it.
When Elizabeth and I moved to Chappaqua we acquired new things, or new to us things, to fit in the itty bitty space. We didn't always get it right and more stuff landed at the transfer station. A lot of it belonged at the transfer station and my heart wasn't really in any of it, but somebody's heart was there. We could hear it beating. A lifetime or three embedded in the wood or laminate or glass or fabric.
I cringed with each carload and I thought it shame but it wasn't. It was somebody else's pain. Somebody else's history finally hitting the end of the road.
There was another big purge today. These days, given my space considerations, a big purge is one and one third contractor bags. I've been putting it off for months; just couldn't figure out how to make myself get on with it even when I was pretty damn clear I didn't want much of it anymore. Kicking and screaming, I am slip sliding away into a minimalist world and I do NOT care for it. I care less for dust and crap and not enough floor space. I despise an overstuffed closet because I can't find a damn thing. Out it goes.
If I had to guess (and I do), I'd say it's because that stuff is all I've got left. Now, I know that's not true, and you know that's not true but it sure does feel that way. Even the Amazon vacuum bags meant to store blankets and pillows with all the air sucked out were hard to let go of. OK, I kept them, they're new and someday I might have something to stuff in them again.
Because each piece and each part represents a bit of something I'm afraid I've lost. That's why. Don't scoff. I actually have lost a good bit, and those pieces and parts were the cast off shells of the things that reminded me of all the lives I've left behind.
OUCH! DAMMIT! OUCH!
This brings me to one final (for now) thought.
All the hoarders in the world. You know, the people with stuff stacked floor to ceiling and not much of a walkway between rooms. You know. You might know one up close and personal, you might be one, you might be on your way to becoming one, or, you've just seen it on TV. But you know. We watch, we hear, we listen, and we diagnose. The one thing I've never heard is this:
OUCH! DAMMIT! OUCH! OUCH! OUCH!
A house with floor to ceiling piles of news paper is holding a shit ton of loss and grief. So take it easy on the Cat Ladies and the Men with Old Muscle Cars; I think they might be walking wounds.
Walk gentle toward those people. I think they need us. Oh, hell. I need us. And you?