I told my sister last night, “Oh no, clutter ate our Christmas.” She told me to be patient. I sighed. Our house is a pastopolis, three floors of hereditary packrattiness.
On Christmas Eve there were at least twenty different sets of plates unpacked and waiting to be washed before being put away again. Floral, geometric, plain, heritage… There were exemplars from every interior design magazine theme. (My mom is only this way with house stuff, and I use the word stuff because all the other words sound archaic, like accoutrements and bric-a-brac, although come to think of it they are more to the point. Bric-a-brac, in particular, sounds remarkably like the six plates, three glasses and plastic soup spoon which, as of last night, are with us no longer.)
There is also the matter of the matchboxes. I saw them laid out on the ledge two days ago. Me: “I can’t believe you kept all these boxes!” Mom: “Yes, I think we can still use the matches.” Me, thought balloon: “Oh, I thought we were keeping them as examples of Philippine graphic design from the seventies.”
We hardly made any headway in the pile of trash bags and boxes underneath the stairs. I opened a huge trash bag to discover it contained a wealth of rags, from at least two decades (I could tell by the fabric). There were rags made from rags. I showed it to my mom and asked if we could spread the rag love, so to speak, and she said no, we can still use those. We are so carbon-neutral it hurts. I managed to persuade her to let go of most of my grandaunts’ clothes, and a set of curtains that had the barest suggestion of aesthetic consideration and shed fibers with every shake. I think the find that gave me the most pause was a wrapped wedding present from our family to “the happy newlyweds” dated 1996. I opened the package and took out matching plastic placemats and an oven mitt. I told my mom that the happy couple had just celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary. I hoped they had gotten along fine without the placemats and oven mitt, so our family could use them now.
The item that gave me the second most pause was a page from a chintz-covered planner I used in 1991. The schedule is eerily similar to what I have today. It’s been 16 years of FGDs and pre-prods and recording sessions that start at 9 pm. At least my handwriting has moved on.