Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gray Friday and Electric Santa

This year, in the spirit of giving thanks for all that I have in my life, I have decided to part with some of it.  Instead of Black Friday, a day of acquisition, this year I had Gray Friday: a day of pulling out dusty boxes, still packed from the past two home moves, and going through their contents.  There was a small part of me that thought "you haven't even considered this stuff for the past three (or, in some cases, nine) years, why don't you just haul it all to the dump?" But the better parts of me -- the sentimental part, the maybe-someone-less-fortunate-could-use-this part, the what-if-this-old-thing-is-worth-something-on-eBay part and, of course, the just-plain-curious part -- just couldn't let things go without having a look.

Gray Friday has paid off in spades. I'm not sure how I got by for all those Christmases without Electric Santa. I've had Electric Santa since I was a little girl. Somehow he became separated from all of the other Christmas stuff and emerged just yesterday from a box filled with a mix of old holiday and non-holiday items. Nothing else in the box mattered much to me, but finding Electric Santa just made my day -- and my whole holiday season -- a little brighter. He's now glowing on the window ledge above my desk and every time I look up at him I can't help but smile. Just the right amount of kitsch and childhood nostalgia.

Another nostalgic find was the box filled with a few of Baxter's things, including his puppy collar. It was sooooo small. It was expandable, but even so, I think he outgrew it in a month. I felt pangs of sadness finding his hiking backpack, though. While Baxter still hikes with gusto and manages to stay a few yards ahead of us all the way, with his arthritic hips we wouldn't dare load him down with any weight. It's been years since any of us has been backpacking... But I think I'll wait until spring to unload the box that says "backpacks and camping equipment."

My Dad used to joke that "three moves are as good as a fire." It's true in terms of being able to find anything. Stuff just gets lost...usually among the boxes that aren't unpacked for so long you forget about them. But unlike a fire, recovery is often possible and sometimes found items feel like blessings from the past. One of those blessings was finding a "lost" box filled with Dad's rock carvings. My dear father passed away in 2006. For a number of years he and Mom were snowbirds, escaping Iowa's cold to spend the winters in slightly warmer Sedona, Arizona. Inspired by petroglyphs he saw while hiking there, Dad took up the hobby of carving similar designs into slabs of beautiful, red Sedona sandstone. He gave them away as gifts. In one of our past moves, the ones he gave us were lovingly wrapped in towels and packed away in a box that somehow ended up in the back of a closet somewhere. Yesterday I found them. It was as if Christmas came early. And as I gleefully unwrapped each stone, I thought of Daddy and smiled.

I've only just begun the excavation (archeological dig is more like it). But the whole process so far has really made me think about what is meaningful and what is just a passing fancy. Some of the items I purchased years ago, thinking they were so necessary at the time, are now sitting in the box that's bound for the Goodwill store.  But seemingly insignificant things, like the little red box of white, lick-and-stick paper reinforcements I used for making crafts as a child (and not nearly as often for reinforcing hole-punched paper) took me back to my pre-school days. That's a keeper.

I'm realizing that in most cases, the value of an item is, for me, in the memories I've attached to it. There's no price on eBay that's worth as much to me as plugging in my Electric Santa.

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