A Closet Case
by Martha Powers
Once a year I tackle my closet. With hope in my heart and trash bag in hand, I vow to sort through everything. Gritting my teeth, I promise to be ruthless in my quest for things that can be thrown away.
Besides being a dark place where hangers can breed in privacy, closets serve as a catchall for the things you can’t bear to part with. It’s sort of a purgatory for trash.
My closet is crammed floor-to-ceiling with treasures. There’s a lot of fabric waiting to be sewn. For the last twenty years, I’ve planned to recover the living room chair where Matt left his grape popsicle while he was trying to remove the Star War figure he somehow managed to get stuck in the bathroom drain. Then there’s the multitude of colored squares for a baby quilt. I started it when Jean was born but I have a feeling I won’t get it finished until she has a daughter in college and then I know she’ll refuse to put it on her bed in the dorm.
On the rod at the dark end of the closet, I keep all my mistakes. You know the kind of things I mean. There’s a dress I bought on one of those gray February days when you realize not only are you not ever going to be rich and famous, but you’ll be lucky if you can even get the cashier at the supermarket to acknowledge you as you purchase 16 pounds of the really cheap ground meat. It’s one of those dresses coyly marked “a picker-upper.” This one is a sort of fluorescent red number with floppy sleeves and no waistline. The only time I wore it, I had to pick Bill up from the floor where he was convulsed with laughter. When Jean asked if she could have it when I threw it away so she could make a parachute, I knew the dress was definitely not for me.
On the floor in the back of the closet are the children’s school papers that I’ve been meaning to sort through so I can store them in the attic. Bill can’t see any point in keeping 45 pictures that Matt painted in preschool. He was in his black period at the time, so I’ll admit there’s a certain sameness to the pictures, but after all these represent his first creative effort. Bill says, since Matt’s second creative effort was to draw a semi-cubist mural on the living room wall, we have a permanent reminder of his artistic bent.
On the first shelf I keep the wrapping paper. In one enormous box I have 13 spools of ribbon which never seem to match any of the paper in the box. I never have any bows. Someone showed me how to make a bow out of the ribbon you wrap the gift with. I went to a shower and my coordinated gift-wrapped present lay proudly on the top of the heap. Everyone was dazzled by my craftsmanship. I was out to impress, so I had made an enormous bow but I guess I didn’t use enough glue. As the other guests sat transfixed, the bow uncurled, writhing and twitching like a rattlesnake with serious stomach distress.
On the top shelf I keep high-end department store boxes for things I buy at discount department stores. If you have an ounce of pride, never try to return a gift that comes in a Tiffany box unless you have a notarized copy of the gift receipt. There is also the candle-making kit someone gave me one year. I thought it would be a wonderful idea to show the children what fun it was to enclose in wax objects from nature. I lost interest in the project when Jean made a lovely, shimmery-blue candle with Roxie, Matt’s pet goldfish, inside.
After sorting through the entire closet, I have come to the realization that only a really strong, hardhearted woman could throw out any of these treasures. After all, it’s memories that make the Golden Years worth living.
Martha Powers is a former humor columnist who left behind the winters of Chicago for the sun and sand of Vero Beach, Florida. She is the author of eleven published novels. Martha writes fiction thrillers but finds that killing off the bad guys isn't as much fun as writing for laughs. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org