POCATELLO, ID – Most people do their heavy cleaning in the spring, but my daughter had autumn plans for me. Recently, a large city dumpster was delivered to the alley facing my backyard.
I had casually mentioned feeling kind of depressed, thinking about selling my house and moving “back to my roots”. My daughter saw my despair as a symptom of a house full of too much stuff crowding out my common sense. So we cleaned.
That is, my daughter, grandsons, and daughter-in-law did most of the leg-work, and we filled that dumpster three times in one week. I was surprised to discover I had that many superfluous possessions, most of them pretty ratty and outdated, including things like thread-bare towels I’d received as wedding presents in 1971 and a quilt I’d made as many years ago that was falling apart. And what was I doing with those empty computer boxes? I no longer owned the computer and printer that fit into them. In fact, I couldn’t remember what became of them.
I bought my house 17 years ago after returning from a year-long journalism job in Burley, Idaho. After covering “cops and courts” in two counties, Cassia and Minidoka, I decided the area was a bit too rough for me. A body was found riddled with bullets, rolled up in a rug, stuffed into the trunk of a car and left to rot in the desert. A teenage girl was pulled out of the river with her throat slit. And it appeared that a prostitution ring was operating out of one of the hotels, but nobody wanted to talk about it, a dead end story for a reporter who prefers people “talk about it.”
I needed, wanted, to move back to the familiarity of Pocatello. I missed my friends, and lo and behold three of my four grown children soon found themselves living within a few blocks of me as stop gaps on their own roads to new adventures.
It’s been cozy and fun having them close by.
Between my divorce in 1988 and buying my house in 1999, I moved 12 times packing the same truckload of boxes around, boxes that I fully intended to sort “one of these days.” On the day I closed on the house, friends (who informed me this must be my last move) carefully stacked the boxes in storage closets in my new/old house, and I never looked at them again, until the dumpster appeared in my backyard.
Going through the boxes of papers and photographs was a lesson in time travel. I skimmed through a matinee of La Traviata at the Old Metropolitan Opera in NYC, raced through anti-Vietnam War protests, rushed into marriage to an Idaho farmer, birthed four healthy children, butchered hundreds of chickens, and founded a literary magazine, The Redneck Review of Literature, (archived at Boise State University). There were those more recent years of being a non-traditional student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and finally a master’s degree from Idaho State University. Then began a plethora of years working for newspapers, followed by years teaching college English, then forced retirement (budgets, they claimed), and now years wondering what the heck all this fussing is/was all about.
Well, most of those boxes of mementos disappeared in the dumpster. I didn’t miss all that stuff while it was packed away, and I don’t miss it now. In fact, the empty closets feel rather nice. I can put away and find my things.
And am I less depressed? I wasn’t sure I was depressed in the first place, merely restless, desiring at least one more grand adventure in or out or around my private Pocatello.