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"Tidying Up" Can Remind You of Who You Used to Be

No one in my family knows me. I mean, you would think. But.

I am Kondo-ing: the Netflix guru who tells us to tidy up has inspired me. Here are the twenty boxes of photos that I was supposed to put into photo albums along the way. This, from the last twenty years before digital. First clue: no photos of me. Lots of my kids, my kids and their friends, my husband and the kids, the dog, grandma and the kids, and - inexplicably- large amounts of the bathroom renovations. Piles of before and after sinks, and tubs, and toilets.

If I died, would my kids remember what I look like....or be more familiar with the way the old bathtub looked? Would everyone know the progression from Kohler to Toto better than they would know me?

“Who am I?” I ask Rory.

“Mom. What? Come on.” He is staring into the refrigerator. He has stood there for ten minutes or so. The room is starting to chill.

“Seriously, Rory, do you even know who I am?” I shove the door closed.

He looks at me as if I just entered the room.

“Do we have anything to eat?” He asks, and opens the door again.


This “tidying up” stirs up some stuff. I see who I was going to be. I flip through the college yearbooks and read the letters we sent and received. I have postcards from all over the world in a file box. From France - I was going to learn the language; from South Dakota - I was going to write a story; from Jackson Hole - we were going to buy a ranch.


“Excuse moi!” Dillon steps over my piles and me on the kitchen floor.

“Dills,!” I stop him by the ankle. “Did you ever read this article I wrote about my Mom?” I hold it up and wave it in front of him..

“No. Wait. Maybe. Wasn't that on the shelf?”

It is framed and was on the shelf!! I smile - we may have something here.

“Yes!” I say, “ Yes! On the shelf!”

“No,” he says, “I should!” He generously adds. He picks up a photo of him and his third grade class. “Why do you keep this stuff?”


I wonder why I keep this stuff. I think that’s one of the things I was going to be once - a Martha Stewart kind of Mom. That didn't work out. I let go of that early. I toss the third grade class picture in the trash pile. It didn't spark joy. The noise wakes up Blue, the dog, who has been sleeping by the window. She comes and sits next to me with a sigh.

“Do you want to hear this article, Blue?” I ask her. She looks up with genuine interest. Puts her head on my knee.

It’s a story about my Mom who shocked me. She told me her story about going to Hawaii on the first boat over after World War Two. She was to teach - whom they then called - savage Hawaiian children. She just did it. Against her parent’s wishes, against norms of that day to get married by 25. The boat over had blacked out windows. They weren't sure if the Japanese or Germans might yet bomb them in the Pacific. It was dangerous and exciting.

At the end of the article, I say I wanted to be just like my Mom. I read this all to Blue, then look at her, my eyebrows raised. She thumps her tail once.

I dump out another box and shift my legs. Blue sits up with anticipation.


Blue loves my stories.

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