“Hello, Emily. This is Billie. (as if I didn’t know) Are you sitting down? I just did something monumental, and you’re the only person I can talk to about it.”
“Yes, I’m sitting down.” I respond, hesitant to tell her that I had just been studying all the artifacts in my living room, wondering how and when they would be “disposed of.”
In 1985, Billie, my next door neighbor, and I, took our first “adventure” trip together to Nepal. I was 58, with a spouse not at all interested in Nepal, and she, 52, a very recent widow with a daughter in the Peace Corps in Nepal.
Each year thereafter, for about 20 years, we did other off the beaten track trips, collecting information, pictures and personal stories from our journals, all of which currently repose in a set of individual albums for each of us. The albums are in my garage in Boca and in her garage in Madison, Connecticut.
She continued: “I just threw my albums away.”
Silence. And then finally, “You what?”
“Yes yes yes.” she, always the minimalist, said defiantly. “Who is going to look at them? All of the stuff in there is in my head. These places and pictures are meaningless to anyone except us. It just isn’t fair to my family to make them responsible for getting rid of them.”
“You really did that? All of them?” Still in shock, I visualized the careful hours post- trips, the sharing of pictures and endless reminiscing that lasted til the next trip, the intermingling of memories each time she and I connected, by phone or visits. And yes, the precious value to me, of these possessions.
“Not yet, but almost all. I’m still working on it.” her voice hung in the air as if she were expecting my unequivocal approval. “Hmmm,” I said thoughtfully.
And then, the back and forth acknowledgement of my obsession with hoarding and her insistence that this was an important way to show love for our progeny.
“Please don’t go sentimental on me,” I thought, and then my eyes wandered back to my living room artifacts and recognition of the massive and unpleasant job entailed in the final disposal of life possessions. Thus, our conversation escalated to conclusion.
“I want you to go directly into your garage as soon as you hang up and take one album and get rid of it. Do one a day – randomly, whichever is on the top, slowly – no rush. You can look at them one last time, if you must.” her voice intonation was firm as it always is.
Eventually, we ended our conversation, and with my marching orders clear in my head, I strode into my totally disorganized garage and plucked the first album I saw titled: AMAZON ADVENTURE 1988.
She was right! How many pictures of jungles and indigenous people and fish and slimy snakes would anyone else want to view, and who, indeed, were Karen and Claire and Tom and…and… but wait! Rebecca! Rebecca Schaeffer, 22 year old TV starlet with her parents — Rebecca, who just months after our return, was shot to death in her Los Angeles apartment by a celebrity stalker whose trial and story made hot headlines for months thereafter.
Could I throw away all those pictures of her and newspaper stories and correspondence with her parents ? Could I?
Tomorrow I will tackle the Galapagos Islands, where only one has-been celebrity was among our group as we tripped our way lightly in full nudity following the blue boobies and newly hatched turtles into the clear waters off Ecuador.