When Buck and I leave the North Carolina mountains to return to northwest Florida’s pine woods for the winter, I usually throw a nightgown and my favorite kitchen knife in a bag, along with canvas satchels of books and sheet music I can’t live without, plus a few herb plants that can make the transition.
But this time, I’m cleaning closets before we go. Memories make it slow work. I am not a pack rat, except when it comes to books, magazines and journals, but neither am I one who follows the dictates of “closet planners” who decree that “if you haven’t worn a garment in more than a year, be ruthless: get rid of it.”
I could tell you that I haven’t written much in the last day or so because I have been on an archaeological dig. True, in a way. In the same way that physical or emotional scars are sometimes a badge of courage and survival, proudly worn, so I have respect for some of my old clothes. From one of the boxes, I pulled out a pair of pants with the left knee ripped. It happened on that scary July 4, 2001 when I climbed to the top of the Shining Rocks (near Cold Mountain) and then fell on my face on the way down, bashing my chin on the rocks, severely contusing ribs, tearing a rotator cuff, gouging holes in my left leg, jamming a wrist and generally scaring hell out of my hiking buddies. The six of us finally walked out of the woods about eight o’clock that night. No, those pants are part of my history. They stay. I need to look at them from time to time to remind myself not to sing, dance, talk and run in the rain while hiking on a steep trail with loose rocks.
There’s a stupid blue sweatshirt, the proceeds of some corporate staff meeting Buck went to years ago. It says: “The situation is hopeless, but not serious.” It just bugs me somehow. What does it mean? Why can’t I get it? Maybe someday I will. It stays.
Those “dress for success” silk blouses and tailored skirts, souvenirs of a past life, will go to the local shelter for abused women. I like to think of someone wearing one of those outfits to a job interview, perhaps a new day in a new life. Pollyanna-ish, maybe, but I can dream.
The jungle green string bikini. Probably ought to put it in a glass display case for posterity. Takes me right back to sunsets on Pensacola Bay, watching pelicans feeding from the fly bridge of our old boat, the Almond Joy. That boat had a small cuddy cabin and a strong anchor.
The battered t-shirts and shorts are just what I need for gardening. They all stay, ready to go to work.
And that old button jar. Don’t we all have one? Most of the garments to which those buttons belong have long since been recycled in some form or fashion. But I can’t let go of them. They have stories to tell, and a peculiar charm.
Cleaning closets. It’s a process, not a project: a sorting and sifting to identify the useful or meaningful, and let the rest go.