Monday, February 17, 2014

Cleanin' Out My Closet

My parents are considering moving. Right before I got married, they moved into a new home in a new state. Their new home was twice the size of their old one for half the number of people and they immediately filled it with a menagerie of dying and decrepit animals. It is basically a nursing home for dogs and my daughter weeps in fear and breaks out in allergic hives every single time we go visit.  

Many years and a major health scare later, they want to move. They have finally realized that the house is too big and that, in case of emergency, my being an hour away (without traffic) is a problem for them. The fact that they decided to move onto the same BLOCK as my family is sort of a problem for me, but one that I may never actually have to solve because long before my parents will pack the last cardboard box, they are going to put each other into matching pine ones.  

Neither one is able to handle change well. Both are pack rats, though of widely disparate items. What this means is that every time she throws out one of his items, he hunts through the trash for it and returns it to its proper place in the garage or basement. He is convinced that every car part, tool, lamp, and piece of furniture is “worth something.” Every time he convinces her to give away a candle, beach bag, or garage-sale toy, she immediately buys something new to replace it, convinced that she will need it as a gift for someone at a later point in time. The best part is that they both call me to yell about the other one. It is a cycle of insanity that cannot be broken.

This weekend, after discovering that they have started dismantling and moving random pieces of furniture for absolutely no reason, we went to visit. As always, my daughter cried then swelled. My son wandered, bored out of his mind, desperate to find the one pet in the house with the normal amount of fur, teeth, and body parts. My poor husband, practically high on the amount of allergy medication required to get through a house liberally covered in dust, cat, and dog fur, simply lugged whatever he was told and tried to stay out of the way.

I prepared for battle. My first war zone was the liquor cabinet. My parents have a beautiful one that came from my great-grandmother. There may not be quite enough liquor in it for the average gathering at my children’s school, but it would be enough for an average wedding. I decided it was high time to clear out the shelves. Obviously, we all know I don’t drink. However, I know of many a beer-n-beer, bazaar, and family fun night that could use a basket of booze to raffle off for a good cause. As I emptied shelf after shelf of top-shelf liquor, my dad stood next to me, like a grumpy old troll guarding his bridge, eyeing every bottle. My dad, the Irish cop, never drinks more than the occasional Coors Light while at home. Thus, it was a mystery why he had both Jameson and Johnny Walker (red and black label), Baileys, Beefeater, and Bacardi, and not one, but two bottles EACH of Absolute and Courvoisier. My parents, neither of whom have ever once had a glass of wine, possess a dozen bottles in a variety of shades. They had mini-bottles of wine from weddings so long ago, the kids produced from those unions are of drinking age. When I was little, I was fascinated by a little bottle that looked exactly like a grenade. This weekend, I convinced my dad to detonate it and the “white dessert wine” that issued forth was a toxic, clumpy brown. I did eventually liberate all but the wine and the Jameson, but I kept an eye on my dad as he packed up the bottles lest he try to pull a fast one and take half of them back.

During this battle over alcohol neither party would actually drink, my mother was gleeful. She was less so when I decided that the second battleground was going to be her “crap closet,” so named by me years ago because nothing in it is worth greater than ten dollars. I have spent years going through this closet every birthday and holiday, as she parcels out one precious, discount item at a time. This weekend, I took it all. No more board games “for the poor kids,” or board books “for when someone has a baby shower.” No more puzzles “in case I need to throw one in with a gift” and no more craft sets “for when the kids come to visit.” My town pool needs new games, my town library needs books, and my town summer rec program needs crafts. And while she hemmed and hawed over every single item, she did eventually give up everything including the ugly umbrella-shaped lamp shade, which strangely enough, turned out to be an ugly umbrella-shaped bird feeder.  

Once they realized I was not taking no for an answer when it came to taking the good stuff, they started bringing out the boxes of bad stuff. Did I want a mini-crepe maker? No. How ‘bought a cast iron griddle so encrusted that it might actually have been used as a murder weapon? No. A giant princess piggy bank with a missing crown? No. The miniature version, but with feathers? No. If the crap closet was the backroom at a Boscov’s, this was the discount section of the same, where everything is half off and broken. Eventually, I just started saying yes to everything. In the end, it is far better that this stuff winds up in my trash cans than their moving boxes.

So, while a few battles have been won, the war is far from over. Realtors still need to be procured in their state and heavily bribed in mine. There are still many closets, rooms, and drawers filled to the brim with things that are both worthless and priceless and two people who don’t know the difference. Plus, the ultimate showdown, the epic battle of wills between mother and father has yet to happen. This will be the deciding factor between good and evil and will be an apoplectic Apocalyptic war unlike any other. Oh yes my friends, the final death match is still to come ---- the garage.

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