The Keeper of the Crap George Carlin once observed that most of us spend our lives indentured to our things. Think about it. The time, thought, money, energy, and worry associated with already acquired possessions. Add to that the planning and perspiration that accompanies the decision to buy, and you've got a fair amount (from the psyche and pocketbook) of spent resources. Mr. Carlin goes on to illustrate his point by characterizing life as essentially one big maddening scenario wherein all of us virtually wear ourselves out carrying our "crap" from one place to another, and often, back again.
Not too long ago, I saw a movie about this guy who solved his crap bondage with the ingenious use of a coal chute type of device propped against the wall of his house just under the attic window. Endless artifacts and vestiges of a previous life were heaved onto the chute where they slid (efficaciously, if none too elegantly) to a waiting truck on the ground below.
Franco and I have done nothing in our years together to disprove the Carlin conclusion. In a marriage of two people, one is a keeper of the crap, and the other, a collector of the crap. Naturally there is a certain amount of over-lap, but if you examine the couple over time, you will be able to discern exactly who's who. The partners, through time, consistently collaborate in the construction of their emotional and empirical environment. They amass virtual truck loads of clutter that absolutely confound them later on when they no longer require such evidence of who they are.
In our case, we traveled and tried our best to bring the visited country back with us in the form of just about anything we fancied. Then, of course, the outgrown and/or sentimental stuff that comes with three children, pets, etc. Top this all off with the taking in of antiques and memorabilia from the dismantling of parental squirreling and you might understand why I used to desperately covet that man in the movie's coal-shoot. I would lie awake at night fantasizing throwing debris into the shoot, onto the truck, which when full, I would drive to the dump. If I was feeling really strung out, I would envision backing the truck up to the edge of a cliff and making a night deposit.
How many times did I pull down those creaky attic stairs squinting through the light-stream of dancing dust falling from the attic window upon the silent relics on the floor? There they all were, musty testament to an all too mutable human attention span. Perhaps they still wait upon the return of their moment, these absolute "must haves" that somewhere along the line, got edged out of our quotidian consciousness? No; relics read nothing into their situation and I should do the same; except, I am the keeper of all this; and I cannot keep up . . . in faith I cannot! I've done that which I had to do.

Still now, out of the blue, I'm apt to hear my spouse utter those dreaded words, "Where is such and such?" I say, now as I did then, "Oh, it's up there somewhere." I would tilt my head indicating the attic and that usually always concluded the inquiry. Same thing with clothes. He must have known that the attic couldn't possibly accommodate the discarded disarray of three and a half decades of outfits. Did it not once occur to him that those dark grey leaf bags left by the curb did not contain leaves? Oh the infuriating innocence of the man!
If I go to hell (and I will if I have to) it will be for those calculated curbside solutions followed by the feigning and fibs that, when necessary, were deployed to defend the duplicity. Poor unsuspecting spouse who sleeps peacefully at night in the security of one day (should he ever go up in the attic which he never would) he could actually be gloriously reunited with his tuxedo and all the beautiful bargains that were too good to pass up in the days of were.
Course, all that's changed since we sold the house and moved to the carefree condo. No attics or basements here, although a leaf bag is always waiting to be filled in some discreet corner of a closet as a preventative measure. When full, rest assure, it is ruthlessly dispatched to the garbage chute next to the service elevator. I did get my chute after all! The same connubial collusion persists still, although the tilted head is now in reference to our daughter's attic.
Our first born material girl's house has been designated as the next crap-depository of the family and we are secure in the knowledge that, as with our own attic of old, her father's feet will never leave prints in the dust of hers either. What harm can there be in this arrangement? The daughter picks up where the father left off. She will carry on the art of collecting. Her husband, by temperament a keeper, will insure longevity of tradition; conjugal complementarity at its best, is it not? The marriage will go on and on and on as will the coming years; leaf bags appearing every so often at the curb . . . even in winter.

--Claire



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