There is a commercial for a local attorney that features a young married couple that morphs into a young mom and dad that morphs into parents of college graduates, you get the idea, and ends up with the very gray and aged wife sitting on a single bed in a featureless room, alone and looking sick and desolate. I don’t even know what the attorney is selling,- representation for the abandoned and hopeless, I guess. I should probably jot down his number, you know, just in case.
Cleaning the attic is a great way to revisit one’s life regrets. For years, I’ve thought that my biggest life regret was something that happened with one of my kids twenty years ago. I think this selective memory came about from allowing the shale formations of my life to layer over the enormous life regrets from thirty, forty, and, yes, even fifty years ago. Many of these were unearthed today – people, places, things. Jesus. For whatever reason,I kept the evidence all these many years and it is remarkably difficult to part with. They, whoever they ends up being, will find it all when we’re gone. I hope they take a shovel to it and don’t sit down to read every word.
We create so much narrative about our lives. We take thin strings of things and macrame all kinds of story castles and the longer we live without ever going in the attic, the more intricate and reinforced the castles become. I’m just saying that as a person who read her mother’s letters today, all of them typed on a portable typewriter in a script font, crammed on a page, each one talking about bowling or golf or how I should go easy on myself as a mom because I was a great mom or how she also feels down around Christmas and that ‘I should have a glass of wine and look at the sparkle in my daughter’s eyes.’ After the last of those letters, following a difficult phone conversation, my mother and I were estranged for ten years. I blamed her. So, yeah, regrets.
On the upside, attics – both real and symbolic – give you a place to store your junk. Otherwise, think about it, you’d be stepping over all this stuff, a son’s teddy bear falling apart from having been held and thrown about too much, a daughter’s swimming trophies, a giant box of yarn meant for a loom that can’t be found, a thousand Mother’s Day cards, the full newspaper from the day men landed on the moon, all of it kept for posterity. Like the junk in our heads, I guess. It’s there when we want to go sort it out.
On the plus side, this week I got a haircut. It was delicious.