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Gina Stafford

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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.

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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. IMG_0347

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.42094839861_74455b95d8_o

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.

42094839921_489183d148_oWhich 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.

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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!

42049896882_afb49b9bf1_o.jpgThen 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.

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Here’s a photo of Margaret and me today:

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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.

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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.

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L-R: John Stiles, Randy Kenner, Bill, Gina, John North, and in front: Kasie and Karie Phelps.

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.

40194185170_7798eba2ae_oAnd 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.

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10 comments on “Thanks for the Memories

  1. Mary Ann Everett says:

    I loved reading your saga & going down memory lane with you. It’s fun to do that once in a while & really realize just how precious time is & how it flies!!! Happy for you both & making more sweet memories! Thanks too for the very sweet note! Miss you guys !
    Happy Trails!
    Mary Ann

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Mary Ann. Miss you, too!

      Like

  2. Jim Gilliland says:

    Loved the read. Thank you. I think Bill was smart. I think I may do that even though we aren’t planning to move. You have had a gloriously full life so far. Wowza!

    Jim Gilliland President JG Communication Group, LLC 423-227-8206 jim@jgcomgroup.com

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re too kind! Thank you, friend.

      Like

  3. Lisa says:

    Great post, Gina! This is our 5th time to go through the purge and reconfigure cycle. You’d think with that frequency, we’d be down to current necessities. And yet, despite giving away a room full of furniture and weeding out as much as we could in the time we had to address the purge, we nearly filled the 18-wheeler United Van
    Lines truck. I mean, if you can hang up your sequin leotard I guess I could give up my high school cheerleading uniforms after moving them from MO to TX to NC to TN back to MO then to IN and as of 15 days ago, Pennsylvania..right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As Bob Dylan said, “I cannot think for you, you’ll have to decide…”
      It’s a tough decision about something that shouldn’t be that hard to get rid of, girl.

      Like

  4. Monica Sutton says:

    What is the greatest accomplishment, a new job, which sounds fantastic, or sifting through 24-years worth of memories? Good luck. I’m looking forward to more blog posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a tough call, Monica. I’ll have to think about that and maybe can address in a future blog. Thanks much for your very kind words.

      Like

  5. Dorothy Bowles says:

    Love this, Gina. I stay in a house way too big and too much work to maintain because I can’t bear the thought of discarding 31 years of accumulated junk. I may need two dumpsters in the driveway if I ever make a move.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can recommend renting a dumpster! Thanks for your kind words.

      Like

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