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Jewish World Review May 7, 2002 / 25 Iyar 5762

Dayle A. Shockley

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Consumer Reports

One man's junk ... -- I stepped out the back door the other morning to discover spring cleaning in full swing. For the first time in, I don't know, years maybe, I could see the entire floor of our two-car garage.

I found my husband parked in a lawn chair on the driveway, surrounded by what used to take up the space of one car.

There was a very large dog kennel. A cardboard box the size of Montana. A wheelbarrow full of firewood. A weight bench covered with spider webs. A small amplifier with a $25 yard sale sticker on it. A red tricycle. An old school desk. Make that two old school desks. A couple of wooden folding chairs, circa 1950. Three bicycles. My sister's table. Enough carpet scraps to cover the Vatican. Miles of orange extension cords. Assorted buckets, dirty rags and cleaning supplies.

We discussed what to do with the stuff. Not surprisingly, a number of items were earmarked for the trash. Some things needed to stay, so we figured out the best places to put them without taking up premium space. A few items would be relocated to the attic.

That settled, I went inside to make a pitcher of iced tea, and when I returned, I was somewhat surprised to see my husband coming out of his workshop behind the garage and setting out yet more stuff in the back yard.

"You better wait and do that another day," I called across the lawn, fearing he might knock his back out of joint and be in misery the rest of the week.

"No," he said, heading back in for another load. "I want to finish this today. You want to keep this?" He held out the little stove we bought Anna for Christmas in 1988 when she was 2.

"Oh, yeah!" I said, excited to see it again. "There is a matching dishwasher in there somewhere. I can put them in the attic."

"Uh-oh. Looks like something oily leaked on the dishwasher," he said. "Maybe you can clean it up."

The stove and dishwasher were filthy beyond description. The average person would have junked them without a second thought. But not me. I save things. Not everything. Just things that I feel will be useful in the future or will increase in value. These sturdy toys belonged in both categories, as far as I was concerned, and I determined to have them squeaky clean before sunset.

I went inside for hot soapy water, a grease cleaner, a few clean rags and an old toothbrush for those difficult places. For the next two hours, I soaped, soaked, scrubbed, rinsed and dried until the dishwasher and stove sparkled.

By day's end, there sat quite a collection of items that had been cleaned and tagged for the attic. As my husband handed each piece up to me, it became increasingly hard to find ample space. Plastic tubs and boxes already were stacked three and four high. Yet I didn't see anything that I wanted to part with.

"One thing is for sure," I hollered down the stairs. "If the good L-rd ever blesses me with a grandbaby, I am ready. For a girl, that is." I looked around and started rattling off the neatly arranged inventory.

"Let's see. Here's Anna's highchair, her stroller, a dollhouse, a doll bed, that toy vacuum that makes lovely sounds, a clean stove and dishwasher, two plastic tubs full of baby dolls and clothes, every Barbie known to man, a fabulous collection of Barbie outfits that Mother made, a Barbie house and a Barbie car, and I haven't mentioned the stuffed animals, nor the real baby clothes and shoes that are around here somewhere."

As my husband helped me down the stairs, he had a look on his face that said, "My dear wife, you are a hopeless pack rat."

"Oh, well," I said, resigned, "just think of all the money we won't have to spend when that grandbaby arrives, five or 10 years from now."

I think he might have smiled.

JWR contributing columnist Dayle Allen Shockley is a Texas-based author. To comment on this column, please click here.

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© 2002, Dayle Allen Shockley