Ever spent 24 consecutive years in the same house?
My husband and I just did–the house we moved into when we came home from our honeymoon. We sold it in June and moved to Chattanooga, which we are loving, by the way.
Moving forces you to purge. The prospect of hauling stuff to a new place makes you evaluate its necessity, and not everything–no matter how useful it once seemed–makes the cut. With 24 years’ worth of stuff accumulated in the basement, the attic, the garage and the closets, I knew we had a big purge coming.
Perhaps the single-best decision my husband made in prepping our house for sale was to rent a “dumpster” into which we could chuck the stuff that wasn’t going along to Chattanooga.
Considering the volume of stuff we tossed into the dumpster–parked in our driveway for a week, which our neighbors must have loved–we saved a lot of time and countless trips to Knox County trash dumps.
Some stuff was obvious dumpster material. Why did we have a hula hoop in the basement, for example? You got me.
Some stuff took a little longer to reach its inevitable dumpster status.
Such as the majorette uniform I wore as a 9-year-old in the local hometown Christmas parade and in a “halftime show” at a high school basketball game.
That little body suit has been all over the state with me, but I finally decided to hang up my sequins for good.
I can’t tell you where the baton ended up.
Time, itself, had made some stuff no longer useful.
Do you still have a VCR? Neither do I. Fifty or 60 VHS tapes with recorded movies: To the dumpster you go.
And there was stuff I couldn’t believe had ever seemed like a good idea.
Twenty years ago, I wore my hair long. Really long. Below my waist long. Contrary to what people often think, one-length, waist-length hair is in many ways lower-maintenance for a woman than almost any other option. My hair was long because I found it easier to maintain–except when it came to bicycling, aerobics classes and some other fitness activities. If you spend hours on a bicycle–as I frequently have–long hair can turn into a massive hair ball if it’s not tightly restrained.
Which brings us to the Braidini. As seen on TV.
Magically–like Houdini, get it?–this contraption was supposed to help you braid your own hair. I could braid my hair into a ponytail. That’s easy. What I could never manage though, was the French braid, an advanced technique of braiding from the scalp downward. A hurricane couldn’t mess up hair in a tight French braid.
Even with the included demonstration video–on a VHS tape–I never figured out how to use the Braidini. But for whatever reason, I must have held out hope because I kept the thing. At least I didn’t fall for the whole Hairdini collection.
Deciding the fate of 24 years of accumulated detritus also led to some happy discoveries, recoveries of valued items with especially great sentimental value. Great memories.
Such as the section of my hometown newspaper that carried on its cover a feature on Bill and me and my 100-mile bicycle ride in honor of leukemia patient Alison McFerrin, the 11-year-old daughter of a former high school classmate of mine, to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in 2000.
I’m very happy to report that Alison had a successful stem cell transplant and went on to be valedictorian of her high school class, attended Auburn University on a full scholarship, earned a journalism degree and is now happily married–and I got to attend the wedding!
Then there was the newspaper “rack card,” the name for the promotional signs on vending machines for printed papers. Remember those? Printed newspapers, I mean.
I saved the rack card because it referenced a weeklong series of stories I, as a Knoxville News-Sentinel reporter, along with my colleague News Sentinel photographer Margaret Bentlage, filed daily from Stockholm, Sweden for a week in August 1997. We were on assignment following up on the lone survivor–a toddler–of a horrendous shooting earlier that year.
And here’s the company newsletter noting that fact.
Here’s a photo of Margaret and me today:
Margaret and I got to do some very cool stuff as a team for the News Sentinel. I’d forgotten about this picture she took when we traveled with the Tennessee Air National Guard to cover its work on U.S. Defense Department outreach via rebuilding a hospital in Bulgaria. In the photo, I’m on the wing of the KC-135 Stratotanker we flew on with the Guard. The picture was made in Seville, Spain–a stopover on our flight to the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. What a fun assignment.
I was extra glad to find this photo with friends and News Sentinel co-workers after we’d run the Knoxville Expo 10K/5K together. “Together,” isn’t exactly accurate, since I was slow and Bill was slower and he only participated under duress.
And we ran the 5K.
And our colleagues ran the 10K.
Sadly, John Stiles, passed away a few years ago following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Randy Kenner now works for Knox County Courts. John North is an editor at WBIR-TV. The newspaper used to sponsor the Knoxville Track Club, so employees didn’t have to pay entry fees. Can you believe that persuaded me–and Bill–to run 5Ks? His twin granddaughters, just 7 years old at the time, ran the 1-mile “fun” run. Now grown up, they don’t think running is fun anymore.
The picture, along with the rest of the stuff–kept and discarded–brought back a lot of long-forgotten memories.
And despite how big and cavernous the dumpster seemed at first, when it was time for the rental company to come and haul it away a week later, it was heaping full.
Topped by old lawn furniture, at least a couple of pairs of crutches (why?), a rusted bicycle, a broken lamp, dusty boxes and–oh yeah, a hula hoop.
Twenty-four years in the same house makes for the accumulation of a lot of…well, junk.
But now it’s gone.
Including the Braidini.