You never know when you might need it

n. Packrat-ism. The gift that keeps on giving.



It was that last lawn mower that finally did it.

One moment I was a perfectly sane and normal person, in complete control of my faculties. The next, I was doubled over in giggles wondering at what point I became a serious lawn mower collector and didn’t even know it.

For the record: We had five lawnmowers.

And three charcoal grills, two volleyball sets, a “smoker” (I don’t have any idea what this is) and partridge in a pear tree (OK, that last one isn’t proven yet but I wouldn’t be even a little bit surprised).

Annual event. Yes, ’tis spring – or almost so, and this means we have begun cleaning the barn.

This is an annual event, like Groundhog Day or the Super Bowl (sans nudity).

We had a fine, lovely day of this last Saturday and spent far too much time laughing – and lamenting – what strange malady, disease, or pure curse led us to own, say, six moth-eaten golf bags and over two dozen miscellaneous clubs (some left-handed although neither of us are). Or an entire gymnasium floor in hundreds, if not thousands, of individual and mismatched pieces.

Other finds. We also unearthed two glass-backed regulation size basketball hoops (seemed like a good idea at the time?); and, of course, the piece de’ resistance: our non-working tractor.

Clearly, no young family should be without a big yellow tractor that, while attractive, does not actually run and hasn’t for far too long.

We have also, over time, dragged home such treasures as an antique wheelchair; an ancient permanent wave machine from a 1930s barbershop (think Bride of Frankenstein hair); and boxes of c. 1940s home movies of a family we did not know (cute kids though).

Now the real question: why?

Heredity. In my defense, this disease is genetic.

Packratism is clearly inherited from your parents and grandparents.

Inside the thirty-something veins of my spouse and I course the blood of generations raised on “you could use this someday,” and “you might need it again.”

There is hope for a couple if only one person is a carrier and the other is disease-free. When both partners are carriers, the affliction becomes virtually certain to strike and is wholly incurable.

When my great-grandmother’s home was finally emptied of possessions (and to my mind, all life) after some 70 years of familial residence – I realized where my urge to have and to hold virtually everything that crosses my path springs from.

If hope springs eternal, then the hope that some obscure item may be used again is eternally certain.

Speak to me. From the tidal wave of “stuff” that populated the barn and attic, one could glean notes from the past.

There were old baby dolls long gone bald, with garish, red painted nails and cheeks, clearly remnants of long-ago “beauty treatments” gone bad. From them, I learned my mother and her mother before her were not, perhaps, always the “good little girls” their relentless propaganda has portrayed them to be.

Busted!

Real survivors. The barn was bursting at the seams with bits and pieces of scrap, down to the last broken glass and recycled fan belt. I was reminded of a generation that survived the Depression, but barely, apparently by hoarding just those sorts of things back when a penny saved still amounted to gas money.

On my husband’s side, my father-in-law can always be counted on to pull from one of his outbuildings or, seemingly from thin air, just the piece or part you have desperately needed and despaired of ever finding.

Like Samson and his hair, I fear the man would lose his power if his “stuff” was ever clearly organized or removed outright.

Survey. Thus, we surveyed the array spread out before us – dizzying not only in size and scope but in sheer uselessness.

I could only marvel that we had achieved such smashing packrat success in just under a decade.

Why, just think where we could be with another 30 or 40 years under our belts (or barn rafters)? The possibilities are endless!

I suspect that if we should, inexplicably, clear any space in our futile cleaning efforts, it will serve only to make room for more stuff yet to find us.

It is my fervent hope that in another 60 years or so, my great-grandchildren will face it and wonder, if only for a moment, what kind of wacky, fun-loving, couple their grandparents must’ve been to own such exemplary stuff.

At the very least, I can’t imagine that they won’t have fun popping wheelies in the old wheelchair.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt never throws out anything – ever. She welcomes comments c/o P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460 or kseabolt@epohi.com.)

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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