Thursday, November 12, 2009

Issues 'n Stuff

I am usually careful with my ‘stuff’ – a near-obsessive need to keep the few things I actually buy new, well, looking new. Forever. I can read a paperback book, multiple times even, and it will still look brand new, with nary a mark in the spine, not a single page dog-eared, any fingerprints on the glossy cover carefully wiped off. My book issues include a reluctance to loan out books, as few others share my respectful obsession with their ‘proper’ treatment, and I doubt I could be a librarian, as I’d probably institute harsh punishment to anyone treating a book with insufficient care and respect. Yes, I realize it’s extreme.

I have a few objects I’ve owned for decades that are pristine, because I think about where to place things, how to clean and store them so they remain as close to ‘mint’ as I can keep them. A few items are still in the original packaging – safely packed away in boxes, rarely seeing the light of day, waiting for that elusive ‘someday’ and the perfect house/room/ life for their display/use. And when that magical ‘someday’ arrives, they will emerge into the light like debutantes at the ball, in near-perfect vintage newness. Or, more likely, forever tainted with the icky smell of a damp basement from languishing in storage. Every time I hear Boyfriend rattle the delicate Japanese lidded candy dish that was my grandmother’s and that has taken me years to finally unpack and display, my heart skips a beat. It must be time to pack it away again for safety.

My neurotic control of my things probably started with the tragic disappearance of my blankie when I was a toddler. Mom says I was a thumb-sucking blanket-dragger, and she asked our pediatrician what to do about the blanket (probably while we were there to have my infected, over-sucked thumb lanced). He recommended she get rid of it while I was sleeping. So, one day she put me down for a nap and disposed of my security-providing fabric while I slept. It’s a wonder I could ever sleep at all after that. (How to Develop a Child with Control Issues, Part 1.)

Years later we moved to a different house. I unpacked my precious stuffed animals, searching for my favorite gray elephant which had long before lost an eye and its pink felt ears. It was gone! My confused tears and wailing temper tantrum (I KNEW I had put it in the box!) finally elicited a confession from Mom – she had tossed it in the trash because it was ratty looking and missing its ears and an eye. Deliberately. So, there I was, in my unfamiliar ‘new’ room, in our creepy ‘new’ house (which was some 50 years old and looked like it belonged in a horror movie), trying to sleep through steam radiator racket and haunted house noises and other strange goings-on, and my primary comfort, my beloved, defective gray elephant was gone. (How to Develop a Child with Control Issues, Part 2.)

As an adult, further crimes were perpetrated against my personal property – by an ex-husband who threw out treasures including my rhinestone tiara (hard-won in the Ms. Yankee Pageant) and by an ex-boyfriend who chucked albums of my childhood photography and my yearbooks from ninth grade through college. My neurotic, protective stance concerning my stuff was now cemented. Note to all – it is recommended you keep your filthy hands off the crowns of beauty queens and the early work of fledgling photographers. (Adults with Issues, Chapter 34 – How to Become an “Ex.”)

My stuff, which may seem like crap to some observers, means something to me. During the divorce from the tiara-tosser, we negotiated every stick of once-new furniture we’d bought for our eight-room house, and he got most of it. At the time, I told myself it was “a small price to pay” to get out of a bad scene. Since then, most of the stuff I have is second- and even third-hand castoffs from friends and family who were upgrading their lives. A vintage bedroom set from Dad’s neighbor who was emptying the family home of 50 years worth of things after the death of his parents. A dining table bought from a friend who moved to a place too small to house it. Night tables and dressers given to me by a friend who was moving out of state for a fresh start. Mom complimented me on my “shabby chic” décor. I explained it was not a conscious decorating scheme, just the way things worked out.

So, Sunday night, after assembling the (oh my gosh, it’s actually something new) etagere for the bathroom, I tried to make a photo of it. That’s when I came close to experiencing a new heart condition when I dropped my digital camera on the tile floor in the bathroom. I have no idea how it fumbled out of my hands, but it did. The plastic door to the battery compartment was completely detached from the body of the camera, the hinge pins broken off and missing, likely down in the ductwork from the floor vent. I cannot believe I was so reckless. It looks like there is going to be another new item in my future.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I've ever told anyone (much less, everyone!) to keep their filthy hands off my stuff. Thanks for doing it for me! :) :) :)