Sunday, September 8, 2013

Letting Go

Yesterday, we sold the cheese board that had been given to us forty-three years ago as a wedding present by two people we knew casually in graduate school. It spent at least half the time we owned it in a plastic bag in the basement. The tray itself was a thick, walnut-stained piece of wood with a circular ceramic cutting surface—white with a golden rooster printed on it—with a glass dome on one end and, on the other, a cracker holder that looked like an extended v-shaped manger from a crèche scene. A knife with a tip like a forked tongue was attached to the tray by a chain. I remember using cheese tray once, though I fear it may be a manufactured memory. In its life we have packed it up and moved it seven times. After two days of our moving sale, yesterday after it had officially ended, still no one had taken it. We called someone who was willing to pick over what was left, and they took it as part of a pile of random stuff for $20. Our parting was unsentimental.

Why did it take so long for us to get rid of it? How do we get rid of such things? We could not just throw it out because it was not damaged. Who would we give it to?  We are not cheese-board people, and if any of our friends were, we would know it because they would already have a cheese board. Besides giving one as a gift would imply we believed in them. But we have had garage sales before. Why was this not part of one? Why did we wait until now to get rid of it?

The difference is that now we are moving to a place that will force us to make decisions about what objects we have. Up until now, we have always had houses with places where we could store things we never used without interfering with daily life. Now we must be more deliberate. It is not just about enough space; however, it is also about time. Over the past weeks many of our decisions about objects have forced us to admit we can no longer harbor the illusion that someday something will be useful to us. We have limited time left, and the aged perspective makes clear how quickly time is moving, how few things will fit into the boundary of a day, and how rapidly one day replaces another. This moving sale was less about making money than about settling up with the limits of space and time.

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