February 7, 2010

my mother is crazy
my mother is a crazy hoarder

my mother is a hoarder

So last night my Mom left a message in my voicemail. She was moving some boxes out of a closet so workmen could get in and replace her water heater and she came across a couple of sweatshirts. She's not a sweatshirt person, so she's never worn them, and she wondered if I wanted them. The collection included one with a big purple H in honor of my high school (I graduated in '98), one that I brought back to her from Paris when I traveled there in 1995, and a third with "Seattle U Mom" embroidered on the chest.

For what I presume are obvious reasons, I did not want them, and when I returned her call I told her as much. I suggested that since she had never worn them and never would, she should donate them to the thrift store. She scoffed at such a ridiculous notion and said "Oh no, I couldn't do that!" I assured her that there was nothing sentimental about a couple of sweatshirts, and she was being foolish. Declaring that she might wear them "someday", she decided she would return them to her closet, where I will surely find them after she's died, still unworn.

She came by not long after to visit Lincoln. When I opened the door she handed me a file folder of paperwork that "I might want". Paper-clipped to the front was my certificate of completion from Defensive Driving school, dated 1996. Inside, a collection of brochures from Seattle U, a generic "Dear Parent" letter from the director of Freshman Success at SU, a couple of high school report cards (one was actually just a photocopy of the original), my financial aid award letter from Freshman year, and a letter welcoming me the Alber's School of Business and Economics (my major for less than one school year). To round out the collection: a verbose and angst-y letter that eighteen-year-old me had typed (in cursive font, no less) to my estranged father, along with his terse (also typed- in courier) response. My two-page letter and his two-paragraph reply, stapled awkwardly nowhere near the corner and edges misaligned.

What that motley collection of documents were doing all together is anyone's guess. Why I might want any of them- another mystery. And I know that Mom's closet is stuffed to the brim with boxes containing many more files just like this one. All those meaningless documents and reminders of things and times long gone. Just knowing that makes me want to rent a big dumpster and rid my own closets of everything that I might have tucked away "for someday". Doing that won't help her though.

I told David that I should have told her that I did want the sweatshirts, if only so that I could throw them out for her. But again, it won't help. The sweatshirts will just be replaced by some other meaningless trinket that she has assigned a sentimental value where none exists.

Now I'm not suggesting that there is no value in holding on to the things that matter. That's not the case at all. I could understand a box with a well-loved baby blanket, or a dog-eared copy of her favorite novel, or even ticket stubs or similar ephemera- reminders of a full life well lived. But no such box exists- just stacks of junk. Maybe it's in the absence of those more meaningful things that she feels the need to save the rest?

There may not be tunnels of junk leading from the front door like you see on those intervention shows or when Oprah has a hoarder on, but oh yes, she's a hoarder. I have the file folder to prove it.