by Lisa

When a Thing frustrates me, it goes into the basket marked “GOODWILL”.  The rim of this tall laundry basket also sports the Donation Slogan: “Be Generous, Be Ruthless.”

Until my frequent use of slogans was pointed out to me by a word-aware sweetheart, I hadn’t given the habit much thought.  Now I see evidence all over the house.  Last night, I wished for a bleach pen to write something on a little black canvas bag full of picnic utensils.  The words don’t come until the pen is in hand, so I can’t tell you what that bag will someday say.  That it will someday say something is sure. Silent things don’t live here for long.

I’ve been listening to the words and whispers of Things forever.  Sometimes I’m sure I hear, “Take me home.  I’ve been waiting in this flea market/garage/alley for weeks and weeks.”  Sometimes, the Thing has a face and is shaped like a teddy bear or a bunny.  Teddy bears and floppy-eared bunnies have lots to say.  I used to cry for the ones left behind at K-mart.  I didn’t cry to have the toy, I cried over its certain loneliness when the lights went out at night in aisle ten. My mother understood.

Some Things go silent under the gaze of family and friends.  I squirrel them away, into attics and other places, until I find a better home for them or reintroduce under better conditions. No sense causing suffering, but also no sense in treating something I think is special as trash.

Some Things speak just as loudly to the beloveds as they do to me.  A bold voice turns a Thing into Treasure, something to share and remember its arrival like a new  old friend.

Today, I took many things away to store for the winter or maybe forever, as winters sometimes go.  Boxes came down from the attic.  Boxes disappeared.  None of the boxes will be missed, and nothing in them has a face.  I cannot tolerate treating the stuffed friends like the fabric and fluff they really are, so they always stay.

Most of what lives out of the house, stored by the month, would fit into an organized attic, which ours is not.  Two pieces of furniture, large ones, won’t.  The furniture sits patiently in the dusty unit.  The contents of boxes marked “CHINA” and “KITCHEN” grumble, dented and clinking angrily.  They fell this summer into a pile, and I don’t know what’s intact; what’s not, I don’t want to know.

The other boxes, books and linens and known artifacts of my other life, whisper nothing but “Patience…”

In my impatient moments, more frequent lately, I tear open an unmarked box once full of Treasures and take advice from the Goodwill basket.  Ruthlessly, generously–to shoppers and unknowing family–I discard what’s gone silent.  The Jeep has been filled like a clown car three times since August, and the helpful donation-takers at the back of the thrift shop frown when I roll up full to the roof.  Sometimes, former treasures in furniture shape gets strapped right on top, Beverly Hillbillies style.  I do this alone, unashamed of my outrageous transportation of newly-shed Things, but a little ashamed of my mourning. Angry tears at inanimate objects’ lost significance seems silly, but I haven’t figured out a work-around for that one.

So, I listen to what remains, carefully carefully.  To live surrounded by muteness, even from simple Things, is hellish.  Strangerish.  Homelessness surrounded by walls and a roof.

In case of actual homelessness or other temporary displacement, I have a nice sturdy bag marked, “LET’S GO.”

That one will never go to Goodwill.