Needful Things

I’ve adopted a new aphorism. The phrase was cultivated during our latest move. A move which included a plethora of boxes, many notated with vague adjectives. Miscellaneous, i.e. misc, was the numero uno choice of description. Then came the likes of various, random, important, very important, extremely important, fragile, really fragile, special, Dad’s books, Mom’s books, and books.

Near the end, up to the day of closing and bugging out like a M.A.S.H. unit, the writing on the cardboard drew intellectual confusion.

“Socks and picture frames.”

“Pop tarts and junk drawer.”

“Cat nip and scarves.”

The labeling of boxes didn’t give birth to my new aphorism; our barn did. As the great OZ said to the Tin Man: “You clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk!” I said this loud and clear to our pseudo-barn. The emptying of the great catch-all was daunting. It was a scene from American Pickers except there was nothing to pick. Okay, maybe my nose, but nothing deserving a handshake.

Two months ago Barbara and I decided to bug out and pare down our material footprint on the planet. We sold the farm. All 7.5 acres, the barn, the chickens, the garden, and the Slop shire She-shed left behind. Now we are trying to stuff a chinook salmon into a sardine can. Our little bungalow on a postage stamp is a quaint booth in a neighborhood where walkers walk and mail boxes are safe from snow plows plowing them over. It is smaller though…by a lot.

The sorting and deciding what to pitch may take months, but we will park a car in the garage come what may. I imagine an old pickup truck full of barn stuff (an envy of Fred Sanford) driving along a dirt road with the tailgate down, and each bump dumping this-n-that like casting lots. I keep telling myself to not overthink, just open boxes and put the old catnip in the trash. But we have to pay some mind to what we want to keep. “What are the needful things?” Geez. Just pedal down the pickup and pray for washboard roads!

Anyway, I ramble. The aphorism…

“Don’t acquire a barn unless you are a farmer.”


Salt water was on tap.  That was yesterday.  I dragged a trailer around town transferring the material world of my mother and daughter.  My mother is about to move into assisted living.  My oldest daughter moved out, again.  For my mother it will be the final assist before she goes on to a more permanent place where no assistance will be needed.  Dependence in the freedom of perfect Love will be her stay.

I saw a lot of my siblings as we moved stuff.  One sister underlined, with a slight shake in her voice, “How does one measure a life…really?”  She is the one who has been compiling information about our family tree.  She has been finding branches and leaves and bits of bark of family that have been long forgotten (or never known).  Her question probably was in the glove compartment of all our minds as we all pitched in.

I thought (no offense to my siblings), who are all these aged people helping move toiletries and chairs and giraffe figurines?  I noticed for the first time just last week skin dangling underneath my chin.  It was as if we were loading time into a cargo trailer only to find dust on it when we emptied it.

The departure, if God graces one with long life, is so much like the arrival in reverse…Obviously.  Friends and family shower a baby and gather things for arrival.  Friends and family dry off a life by dispersal.  Estate sales pop up everywhere. It is our turn yet we would rather give up our place in line and move to the back.

The tears came at an odd time (I thought anyway).  I dropped off my mother’s table and chairs at my daughter’s new apartment.  As I said goodbye and kissed her neck all the movement moved me.  I apologized to her.  “It’s just that there is a lot of movement going on lately.”

My eyes felt the after burn all day as I drove from one place to another and another.  The cargo trailer ended up at church chained and locked.  Yeah, that would be a good place for stuff  to be parked.