Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I spent one of the latter weeks of July in my parents' home in Tennessee, grimly sifting thru papers & boxes, drawers, shelves full of things they accumulated during their decades together. I never thought of my folks as hoarders, as pack-rats even, but I was amazed at what they had managed to keep.

My father didn't retire from the military until 1974, I think. He had done tours in Austria, the Philippines, Germany (three times), California, upstate New York, and I imagine places I don't know of. The house is full of furniture and tchotchkes from Germany; many of them I'll want to keep, I suppose, others will go.

I finally gritted my teeth and loaded the trunk of the rental car with Dad's beloved wardrobe-full of tweed blazers. He loved nothing so much as buying a new blazer, and must have rewarded himself at least twice a year. (I'm not sure if I've bought a dress jacket in the last decade.) I saved one suit:  a nice woolen job in charcoal grey, a German suit from the mid-1960s. It fits me pretty well, and has a great Austin Powers vibe. The ties – scores and scores of them, all too conservative for my taste – went with the blazers to Goodwill.

In exploring the attic, which I'd thought was simply the resting place of every toy I ever accumulated in my childhood (more on that later, perhaps), I found box after box after box, each of them full of old copies of The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, and the London Review of Books. Imagine that! – at least ten years' worth of newsprint, hundreds of pounds' worth, most of which he had carted around with him from house to house, from post to post (for many of them dated from well before his retirement).

I thumbed thru a few copies, looked longingly on the covers of a few TLSes – look, Terry Eagleton back when he had hair!, a new essay from Susan Sontag! – and proceeded to organize a carrier brigade: I would carry armfuls of magazines out of the attic; Daphne would carry them down the stairs; Pippa would dump them into the trunk of the car.

I don't know how many trips Daphne made up and down the stairs to the attic – she didn't complain much – but it took two trips to the recycling center to dispose of the whole mass. It's given me pause: do I want to inflict this paper scourge on my own children? And we've still barely begun dealing with his books.

1 comment:

undine said...

But at least you recycled it all; doesn't that feel good?