Taking up space

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By Kes Colbert

I was looking for something in that little closet by the bathroom where we keep guest towels, Band-Aids, sun tan lotion, mosquito repellent and such. Up on the top shelf there was a metal guard the hospital used when they set Josh’s broken arm. A little closer examination revealed the ace bandage used to strap it on. Folks, Josh was in the first grade when he broke that arm. Today, he is on the back side of 30 and expecting his second and third child in May. And we’re still holding on to his arm brace. I don’t think it would fit if he fell off of a trampoline this afternoon. Maybe we’re figuring his son might break an arm while visiting this summer. Maybe we held on to it in case our big dog needed a splint. Maybe we thought we could strain the spaghetti noodles with it. Maybe we’re crazy.

That brace has occupied space in that closet for 27 years. The question is, why? I’m sure there’s something more timely and useful we could put on that shelf. Like maybe some Christmas ornaments that are in my way out in the shed. Or those unsightly roller-curly things that I’ve got to look at every morning while I’m shaving.

 I’m sure nobody lives like this except us. Cathy is better about cleaning out than I am. There are just certain things that have stayed. We didn’t set out to “save” an arm brace that we hoped and prayed we’d never need again. It just found a spot and wouldn’t let go. Pretty soon it blended in. Or it becomes so ingrained we simply don’t see it. Perhaps it claimed squatter’s rights. Or maybe we were just too occupied or too lazy to dispose of it.  

We’ve got a left-handed 5-iron behind the door in Josh’s room. It has no grip and, of course, me and both boys play golf right-handed. You’ve got to scratch your head on this one. And we’ve had it just slightly less than the arm brace. Maybe we were preparing for that day we hit a ball up next to a tree and we’d have to swing from the left side. Maybe we thought Bob Charles or Phil Mickelson was coming by. Who knows?

We’ve got a rock resting on the carpet by the bay window that I think came from the creek up by where my grandparents lived. I’m not sure about that. I mean, we’ve got the rock. I’m just hoping it came from somewhere important like Pa and Gran’s. I’d hate to think we’ve just had this most nondescript rock sitting in our living room all these years for no reason at all!

We’ve got bank statements that go back to 1974. I don’t know on this one. Maybe we’re thinking the IRS might audit us. Or the bank might owe us something if we can find a mistake they made in 1981. We could simply be interested in how much we paid for the polyester bell bottoms. Or the mood ring. If heating costs keep going up we could burn them in the fire place. Or we could throw the blame things away and store the Christmas ornaments in those five drawers.

I’ve got a pair of baseball cleats that came over on the Mayflower. Well, almost. I played high school ball in them. Cathy has thrown them away twice. But baseball shoes are a little different than what we are talking about here. And so is my orange Golden Flow cap. It fits. I don’t care how frayed the edges are. As a matter of fact, I’ve kept that cap so long it’s in vogue now.

I go into Jesse’s room today and a life-size blow up of Hans Solo makes me jump. It takes a second to realize it's not an intruder. That thing has been scaring me ever since Darth Vader went to the dark side. Jess moved out in 1997. The poster stayed. It beats me. But you can’t toss out Harrison Ford for goodness sakes.   

We’ve got both boys’ first bicycles stored over by the Christmas ornaments. They are rusted out. Neither chain will turn. And all four tires are flat. They can’t be ridden. And I doubt they could be fixed. But we keep hanging on to them. Go figure.

I’ve got ties that I had in college. I wouldn’t wear one of them for anything. They hang like sentinels on the rack nailed to the back of the bedroom closet door. I have to rummage through them to find a tie that is wearable. They are mostly in the way. And bespeak of an era that has come and gone. And yet they linger. I have no clue why.

Maybe they talked to the arm brace or the 5-iron. Or the hurricane machine that one of the boys placed in the science fair back in junior high. It is in the attic, along with the middle two sections of a dinning table that we gave away in 1982. And the screen to our French doors. We didn’t feel like sliding that screen back and forth every time we came and went back in ’86 when we put the doors in. I reckon we kept the screen in case we change our minds.

We got a dried out flower (I’m talking falling apart and shedding here) on Josh’s old dresser. It was from a prom I guess. It’s next to that Class of ’94 tassel. And the empty tennis ball can.

We’ve got a hair dryer underneath the bathroom sink that burned out in 1984. We can’t put anything in the kitchen cabinets because of the plastic cups from a Talladega race, the Masters, a Southeastern Conference title game, Old Pete’s Auto Mart, a Braves game in 1995, a bank’s grand opening, the super size from Subway...

Nobody lives like us! Listen, I’m going to clean all of that stuff out, throw it all away and get more organized. Just as soon as you do.