Sunday, June 03, 2007

Crazy house in Massachusetts

So a friend of mine and I went to Massachusetts to visit one of her old college chums. She lived in a five bedroom house overlooking the ocean. She and her husband occupied one of the bedrooms, and we stayed in another. The other three bedrooms were filled with stuff. One was filled with papers and other ephemera which Eve was saving up to take to the dump, when they got around to it. They had not gotten around to it for several years.

We went to put our clothes away in the dresser provided by the management, but the drawers were filled with empty Jergen's lotion bottles and Pond's cold cream jars. The closets contained Eve's old clothes and those of her son, who had married five years previous, but who knows, he might want these things some time. The other bedrooms contained a number of quaint artifacts, such as wooden skies which would be fine if they were waxed and if they had not lost their camber, and tennis rackets which were out of date when Chrissie Evert was a competitor. Old college textbooks added to, but did not complete, the mix. I'm not sure, because the rooms were too full to use, and we could only gape through the open doors.

Eve's study contained all the papers she had used when she taught Sunday School in the 1970's as well as papers she was using when she taught English at a community college. Eve spent her spare time going through these papers in case they might be useful. Every night she spent two or three hours sorting this junk. Her efforts had all the effectiveness of shoveling out the Atlantic with a teaspoon.

Pasted on the kitchen wall were pictures her son had colored when he was a boy. (Did I mention that he was grown up and married?) There were also schedules for trains which had long ceased running, conferences which were long over, and recipes Eve would like to try as soon as she got the study cleared out. These items were covered in a rich patina of kitchen grease.

They lived, as I have mentioned, overlooking the sea, and a tidal wave had once inundated the living room. A grand piano had been destroyed during this mishap but had never been removed. I could see her point. If you can't bring yourself to throw out cans and bottles and newspapers, getting rid of a piano must be daunting.

She still owned every garment she had worn since puberty. At breakfast on Saturday morning, she wore a shirt she had worn in high school and which had not been so great even then. I suppose the ones which were no longer wearable were in one of the closed-off bedrooms, waiting to be recycled, but I didn't ask.

I only went to her house that one time. By the next time we visited Massachusetts, there was no space for visitors. The bedroom we had formerly occupied was filled with the overflow from the other rooms.

Eve is a widow now. When I picture her, she is still in the house, but by now the usable space has dwindled to the kitchen with a cot in one corner, and the kitchen is filling up fast. Soon she will be living in her car, which is parked in the driveway--did I mention that the garage is too full to use?

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Steve B said...

My mom is kinda like that, only not quite as bad. I used to come over every so often and clean up for her, only to come back the next time to find it messed back up.

I finally realized that the clutter was part of her comfort zone, and that having everything clean and organized stressed her out.

So I quit cleaning. But like you, I don't sleep over there much when I do visit.

airforcewife said...

When did my MIL change her name to Eve and move to Boston?

Cleaning out my MIL's house when she went to the nursing home was a nightmare. I ended up throwing things away without even looking at them. At some point, I just couldn't process things anymore.

That Broad said...

I've known people who live like this. I have some pack rat tendencies myself, but it is tempered with the minor neat freak living in my head. Somewhere in all of that is a balance.

Anonymous said...

I have the opposite tendency. In my zeal to clear things away, I sometimes throw out something that someone actually needs. Oops.

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