Friday, July 5, 2013

Dumpster diving. Because my son noticed I threw something out.

Dumpster diving. Because my son noticed I threw something out.“You threw out my papier-mâché penguin.”

“Yes, I did. We just can’t keep everything.”


“Honey, I spent all weekend going through things that Grandma saved from my childhood – and some even from hers! I got rid of my report cards, my handwriting homework from third grade …”

“Handwriting – what’s that?”

“You write in cursive.”


“Never mind honey.” How could I explain it to someone who can type faster with two thumbs on a handheld device than with a full keyboard on a computer?

I didn’t mention progress reports and tuition bills from nursery school, decades old legal documents and business records, and even a 30+ year old ponytail, from one of my more noteworthy childhood haircuts (which I have since sent to Locks of Love), never mind my mother’s personal mementos, which included photos of people whose identities I did not know, though I imagined they were our relatives, and a few of her childhood journals, from her own “Dear Diary” era. We had rented a dumpster, though a lot of things made a detour to the “FREE STUFF” table I’d set up on our lawn and many others went straight to the closest FedEx office for bulk shredding.

While Grandma had traveled across the country six times, some of her stuff never left our house. After she passed away, one of her friends shipped me several boxes of her things. I hadn’t opened any of this stuff in more than four years, if ever. There was no way I was going to bring it with us to the new house we’d be moving into without sorting through it. Nor could I continue collecting at the rate I had. Not only would I run out of room for the memorabilia, but also, I’d surely end up a candidate for the TV show “Hoarders.” Plus, I didn’t want my kids to have to go through the same exercise with my stuff that I had with my mom’s at any time ever in the (hopefully distant) future.

Still, the penguin haunted me. “How could I be so careless with one of my children’s creations?” I chided myself. I went to bed thinking about it and woke up with it on my mind as well.

I decided if I looked into the dumpster and could see it, I would retrieve it.

Yes, I actually got in this dumpster looking for one of my son's art projects that he noticed missing.Lo and behold, there it was! I climbed up and hung over the edge of the dumpster and I could reach it with my hands. It was a little damp from the morning dew, but it still looked fine. I removed all of my own artwork and clay pots and such that my mom had saved from a curio cabinet and set the penguin there instead. Most of my artwork went straight to the dumpster, though some made the detour to the FREE STUFF table first.

When my son got home from school, he noticed the penguin right away (especially since it was the only thing left in the cabinet). I explained how I had entered the dumpster headfirst and snatched it from the morass of stuff…

“Did people think you were a hobo?” Our house was on a busy street so no doubt many people had driven by to witness my dumpster dive.

“How would I know? What other people think isn’t any of my business.”

“Thanks, Mom. Maybe we can put it…”

“…I’m sure we’ll find a good place for it in our new house.”

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...