I could be a hoarder if I did not have people around me supporting me with lots of TLC, annnnnd if the spirit of my mother did not haunt me regularly telling me to get rid of things. But those very things I hang on to, those chachkah’s that she always complained were dust collectors, are usually linked to a memory of her, or my children when they were young. Or my sister. Or cousin. or close friend, or happy times.
Oy. You see what I’m dealing with?
Don’t get me wrong. The downstairs of my house is clean and kept and organized. It’s ready for company. However, the upstairs is a bit different. For the last year, it’s been like those files in the back of your brain where everything you can’t let go of but don’t have the energy to process goes hidden and unchecked.
All four bedrooms on my second floor have become an extension of the attic, an extension of my life, the file cabinet of memories sometimes too tender to process.
My husband and I moved downstairs to the library in the front of the house after my last surgery, last January, since I could not climb stairs for a while. We liked it so much we made it our permanent bedroom. Bright and sunny, big windows, an entrance to the front porch (and you know how I love my front porch!). So our upstairs master bedroom became the room for the garage sale that never was and the Good Will collection site.
My daughter’s room held her things left behind when she went to college, and then moved into her own apartment. My son’s room held most of his memorabilia from his youth, then furniture from my mom after she passed.
The guest bedroom is the entrance to the attic, and so of course that held all our seasonal stuff that didn’t make it to the attic because, well, I wanted to go through it and weed out the stuff we didn’t use anymore. What is that saying about good intentions?
So anyway, something monumental recently happened in my personal life, and afterwards it was like I woke up from a coma. These past two weeks I’ve purged and cleaned out our laundry room, started purging furniture I don’t need anymore, bought a new vacuum (a Dyson!), and cleaned out my son’s room, making it my office. I wish I’d taken a “before” picture of it, but I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to post it.
I’m in the middle of painting the trim of the office and painting the desk from my younger years and I got caught up in memories of my mom and my childhood and it was paralyzing. The pain of my mom being gone collided with her spirit voice urging me on as she has been the last few days and I needed to take a break. So here I am.
My mom never stopped. Except when she was struggling with depression or physical ailments. She was always wallpapering, painting, cleaning . . . or, okay, yeah napping or enjoying her front porch. I used to be just like her, until a few months before COVID hit. Devastating news hit my family and just as I was straightening up from that blow, we were quarantined and the world as I knew it turned upside down.
But this past week, the light grew brighter, the emotional storms settled down, and life started to right itself. And the old me woke up, with my mom prodding me to get my act together and get my house in order. That meant purging and wallpapering ’til midnight, stopping only to cook dinner and eat.
So here is my desk, before and during the renovation. I was going to strip it down and keep the wood finish, but Jeana pointed out that painting it white would brighten it up. Thanks, Beana! She was right.
In my youth, this desk held pens and paper, crayons and pencils, blank paper, magazines, cool things like rocks and shells, and anything else a ten year old thought was important to treasure. I’d forgotten about it until I opened a drawer, then it all materialized in my memory as if the drawers were full again.
During my teen years it held make-up, brushes and combs and clips and things, and and note cards, magazines, love letters from my boyfriend in the Navy, and secret-notes-folded-up-into-triangles-from-my-best-girlfriends. To prove my hoarding testimony, I found those notes recently in a box in the attic. Some are actually blog-worthy.
The desk went on to be used by my son, Anthony, and it held similar things like paper and crayons, coloring books, rocks and stuff, and action figures.
My daughter, Allie Rose, took it over at one point and kept similar items minus the action figures. It then was donated to Herkimer High School as a prop in Allie’s junior year. And I forgot about that old desk after that.
She reclaimed it and brought it to her dad’s house sometime between graduation and college and it took on a life of its own there, any claim I held to it gone forever. Or so I thought.
Last year it came to my attention that my old desk needed a home, and like a stray puppy or kitten, it found its way back into my life in time for the holidays.
This most recent January it became the altar for my mother in law, who passed away from COVID.
Now, with me moving my work office upstairs, I needed a desk for my Janina Grey office downstairs. We were ready to shop when I remembered my old childhood friend turned altar for mom-in-law.
And this is where we are at today.
So now, with first and second coats on the old desk, I’m up in the attic painting trim and listening to Zeppelin, as my mom scolds me for not putting newspaper down to catch paint splatters. She’s also correcting me to paint in one direction and use a smaller brush in certain areas.
My response, “Thanks, Mom. For teaching me how to paint, wallpaper, and repurpose.”
Not only does it keep me close to mom, but it brings new life to old memories. And it’s a great form of therapy as well.
I’ve got to get back to painting! Look for pics of the new office once the trim is done!
Have a great weekend everyone.