I don’t want to bore you by listing all the stuff we found in my parents’ basement (and my old room, which was being used just to hold the overflow), but holy cow, there was some stuff in there. Matchbox cars, slot cars with twenty Earth miles of plastic slotted track, old license plates, car parts, for all I know there’s a whole car in there somewhere, we’re still not done and now I’m back in California until it’s my shift again.
But I just have to say:
19. My uncle Harry’s brown leather jacket from the 1970s. Makes everyone who wears it look like Beck. My uncle Harry has Alzheimer’s, but he’s just at the beginning of sort of losing his way around town, so it’s not ugly yet. I talked to him on the phone the other day and he sounds exactly the same as always, with his eye-rollingly bad Henny Youngmanesque jokes. If you saw him you would say, how was it possible that Johnny Carson and Jack Lemmon were able to mate? A picture doesn’t do him justice, you have to feel that crazy martinis-and-bowling-shirts vibe he emanates.
27. My uncle Harry’s bowling shirts. 100% Polyester, size medium, in colors that would remind you of rusty Camaros with no hubcaps.
51. Tons of fancy art supplies. My dad spent his entire postwar career (that would be World War II) in sales, much of it repping for manufacturers of art stuff. We found boxes of tempra paint, leaky tubes of oil paint in exotic-wood cases, ink-pen nibs for left-handed calligraphers, huge blank sketch pads, and a selection of sample pull-down world maps that he tried to woo the Chicago Public School System into buying. I think he was pretty successful, too, without being too Glengarry Glenross about it. If my father were a David Mamet character, he would be played by Fred Gwynne.
97. My father’s sales contest winnings. What’s a sales division with a midwestern mindset without sales incentives? We found twelve boxes of glassware that my father had won — glasses for old fashioneds, manhattans, margaritas, highballs, beer, and wine. Twelve boxes! My father doesn’t drink. After gathering dust for twenty or thirty years, those boxes are now sitting in a Goodwill store in Littleton, Colorado, and if you’re thinking of opening a bar get on over to Coal Mine Plaza quick and all you’ll need after that are some barstools and a dusty jar of pickled onions.
103. Sheherazade’s Secret Fabric Boutique. My mother has a sickness, it’s called the “I’m going to buy thousands of dollars worth of fancy imported fabrics, thread, buttons, and zippers, and then leave it in the bag with the receipt for thirty years so my children will find it and look at each other and say, Thank God she never finished making that hot pink corduroy pantsuit” disease. I also found at least twenty boxes of yarn, often containing several sweaters knitted up a couple of inches and then abandoned with the needles still in place. I shipped three boxes of fine Italian, Irish, and Welsh wool to myself so that I can start my own spider-infested collection of commitment failures. Maybe it has something to do with her growing up during the Depression. All I know is that my mom now spends most of her day in her recliner reading murder mysteries and driving my oldest brother mad by knocking over her walker, sitting on the TV remote, and then asking him to get her a Fresca. It must be nice to be old enough to become a pain in the ass to the child who gave you the most trouble growing up. Payback is a bitch.
Then there were the boxes and boxes of classic family pictures, dried-up Bic pens, receipts from department stores that closed ten years ago, Bicentennial drinking glasses, outgrown ski clothes, yearbooks, and embarrassing prom pictures. Maybe next time I’ll show you those, right now I have to make the most of my finite amount of naptime/alonetime and take out the garbage.