Al Batt: It’s not hoarding if you can still see the floor

Published 6:56 pm Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tales From Exit 22 by Al Batt


My father piled things higher and higher.

Email newsletter signup

He wasn’t sure what all the items were, but he believed they might come in handy one day.

One man’s gold is his wife’s garbage. When Dad was away, Mom hauled the unidentifiable things to the dump.

When Dad noticed they were missing, he made a trip back to the dump to bring all his things back home, along with “perfectly good” stuff that had been discarded by others.

There is a woman named Marie Kondo who has become popular by promoting decluttering. That’s a good idea, but I’m glad she wasn’t around to give my mother that advice.

My mother was anything but a hoarder. She got rid of things. My baseball cards and prized comic books, for instance. Mom didn’t even have a plastic bag filled with plastic bags or a shoebox stuffed with pieces of string too short to save, but she saved some treasures. Why did she save the things she did? I’m not sure, but I’m glad she did.

Mother gave wonderful advice: “This, too, shall pass.” “You can’t be grumpy when eating pie.” “Don’t go bragging on yourself.” “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.” “Stop worrying. There’s no point in making yourself miserable.” “We don’t always get what we deserve. We don’t always get what we work for, but if we aren’t willing to work, we can’t expect to get anything.” And, “If you’re not going to use it, give it to someone who will.”

She wanted little and asked for even less.

After my parents had died, I helped clean their house. I explored the closet of curiosities in the spare bedroom. That closet and the room’s steamer trunk were a treasure chest of oddments, excitations, mysteries, tears and recollections.

There were things there that would have made me say, “Well, I’ll be a polka-dotted possum,” if I’d been the kind to say that.

I found a couple of ancient restaurant menus. Perhaps places of employment or special memories — maybe from a time when sit-down restaurant meals were luxuries.

A mouse-chewed Rollie Hemsley model catcher’s mitt. Hemsley played in the majors from 1928 to 1947. A doctor’s bag and a Marlin rifle missing 37 percent of its parts.

A bill for a headlight. Padiddles (vehicles with only one working headlight) weren’t as common as they are today.

A state map of Nebraska folded correctly. That meant it had never been used or someone was capable of folding a map correctly. I could never fold a road map the same way twice.

Yellowed newspaper clippings documenting people and events. The folks liked newspapers. TV was passive. Newspapers required an active involvement.

There was a battered program for a musical held in Omaha. My mother had loved it. My father claimed to have been tricked into going to it. He’d have preferred to listen to Hank Williams on the radio.

My boyhood leaf collection pressed in the pages of an aged, thick book about Theodore Roosevelt. It brought memories of the time a neighbor girl tried to save her stupid cat from a tree. I’m not sure if “stupid cat” was the cat’s name, but that’s all I’d ever heard it called. The girl fell out of the tree in the midst of her rescue attempt. I ran to see if she was OK and offered to tell her mother. The girl was fine and accidentally punched me in the nose. The cat climbed down and walked by us with a haughty flick of its tail.

There was a metal lard pail filled with marbles. My father told of carrying his school lunch in a lard pail. This pail was nearly filled with little, flawed, spherical balls — aggies, shooters, Jaspers and cat’s eyes. Someone in my family was always claiming to have lost his marbles. I guess he was right. I’d found them.

I found a handwritten recipe for hobo stew on an index card from my mother’s aunt. We were soup people. Worries go down better with soup than without.

Some things were beyond my memory.

Steven Wright said, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”

In storage units. Look out, corn! One day, storage units will cover more acres than you do.

The things I stumbled upon in that closet of curiosities had no monetary value. They were worthless. They were priceless.

Memories rushed out like the bulls at Pamplona.

We don’t know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Saturday.