Once a year, I force myself to embark on my least favorite, most dreaded task in the universe. Of course, I meant to start this hellish chore back in December, but no, here it is, Spring Time, and I’m finally on it. This past weekend, I took on the only place in the house that is truly mine. I have only myself to blame for its ungodly status. That’s right. I cleaned my closet. It was worthy of a horror flick. I frightened myself, and anyone near enough to hear me screaming.
How much do I hate this agonizing process? Deeply. Closet-cleaning reaffirms that, despite my more-or-less neat and orderly appearance – if you catch me at a good time of day in candle-lit room -- I am a TOTAL SLOB. Somewhere up in heaven, at this very moment, my mother has just overheard my sad confession and, while she isn’t the least bit surprised – this trend started early in childhood – she is still disappointed that I never got the closet thing together. I’m sure there are worse crimes, though none comes to mind.
The strange and wondrous contents of my walk-in nightmare often parallel my state of mind: Cluttered, not to mention, painfully honest. Each hanger, occupied by dress, skirt, blouse, pick your obsolete fashion, sends a blunt, mean-spirited message to my central nervous system: Too young. Too old. Too small. Too big. It all adds up to a colorful, disorganized display of “Seriously, what was I thinking?” Did my brain take leave when I purchased these pointy, torturous shoes in the wrong size? Did I expect a miracle to occur that would make them fit comfortably? And where was my head when I bought these skinny jeans designed for tall, hipless females? I have never matched any of those descriptions, and never will.
So I stood there, 70s rock music blasting in the background, and turned shockingly ruthless, yanking sweaters and shirts off hangers, making pile after pile of who-am-I-kidding, these-will-never-fit-me-again items to donate, and other piles destined for the trash, stained and perforated garments I am too charitable to inflict on anyone.
The hours flew by as I purged my closet of outdated outfits and sparkly attire I never should have bought in the first place. And I was feeling good. I was feeling strong. Unattached, unsentimental. “Gone!” “Goodbye!” “Adios!” I shouted as the stacks grew higher.
And then, suddenly, without warning, I converted to mush. As I reached for ancient-looking handbags to discard, purses I held on to for eons against my better judgment, I got sent down memory lane, big-time. Each bag beckoned to be opened, inspected for long-hidden cash and other contraband. Instead, I found ticket stubs. “Love Actually,” 11/11/03. I shot back in time, and there I was again, sitting by myself in the theater, a stolen moment just for me, nibbling popcorn, alone with Hugh Grant as the prime minister of England. It was divine, and it was all mine. Another bag yielded another memory, another ticket stub. “A Beautiful Mind.” “Something’s Gotta Give.” “Little Miss Sunshine.”
It wasn’t just ticket stubs I found. There was more, much more. Half-used lipsticks. Business cards of people I can’t remember meeting. Department store receipts… probably for clothes I was giving away. Diaper coupons?! That purse must’ve been really old. It pushed me over the edge. The tears started flowing. I couldn’t stop myself. The floodgates opened. I started singing. I sang for every woman I know.
Join me now, won’t you? You know this song. You’ve sung it yourself. Maybe in the shower, the car, or even the closet down the hall. Let it out, now. Sing it for me, sing it for you, sing it for Hubble. Together, we’ll heal and move on:
Memories like the corner of my purse
Misty, inky, smudgy memories
Of the way I was
Scattered pictures of the movies that I saw
Crusty blush and ruby lipstick
Made me look just like a whore
Can it be I was hormonal then?
Or has menopause twisted every thing
I stopped needing Tampons long ago
Tell me, why this bag has two or three?
Memories may be questionable at best
What’s so clear becomes so foggy
Middle age makes me forget
So it’s the kvetching
I will remember
Whenever I can remember
The way I was
Once again, with feeling!
Carol Starr Schneider is a writer living in California.