I recently started reading a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo as part of my quest to go through boxes that piled up after my move in the spring 2014. Those boxes, and more from my childhood bedroom, The Shrine, have been cluttering up my space. It is not so much the physical space of these boxes sitting in an unused room in my house that agitates me, but the mental/emotional space in my brain that feels hindered by them. I realized this when I wrote I May Be a Hoarder and I Know It. Not long after that, my cousin pointed me to Kondo’s book. As I started turning the pages, it became blatantly clear to me that my problem was much bigger than I had realized. So slowly, and in conjunction with reading this book about the KonMari Method, I have been rooting through old belongings trying to decide what to keep, also known as “what sparks joy,” and what to discard.
Early last month, my progress slowed when I started making a movie slide show of pictures for my maternal grandma’s upcoming 90th birthday celebration. But before becoming completely immersed in the movie project, I went through one last box. The box was big, and full of old play-clothes my mother passed onto me when I was a preteen. As I was going through the box and remembering a time when my girlfriend and I dressed up in some of the clothes, I came across an ancient looking white pocketbook. About to discard it, I suddenly hesitated as I held it in my hand, but, regardless, I put it on top of a box to donate.
When finished, the items I decided to discard on top of the unwanted items I had already harvested from my closet, I had four boxes to donate. I asked my husband to load the boxes into my car so I could drop them off at a donation center the next day. As he picked up the one with the pocketbook on top I spontaneously, and somewhat possessively, grabbed it and put it back on the “to-keep” pile.
I did not give it another thought.
About a week later, my aunt brought over a 150 or so old pictures that she had scanned for me to use in the movie for my grandma’s party. As we were going through the pictures, one of them in particular caught my eye.
For in this picture, and dangling from my great-grandmother’s right hand, is the white pocketbook I nearly discarded. Not only that, but I am the baby in this picture looking directly at it!
Make of it what you will, but my aunt, also in the picture, and I were giddy with fascination after I scurried downstairs to get the now-treasured pocketbook.
This past Saturday, my grandma’s 90th birthday celebration went off without a hitch, and the movie was well-received. In the end, it included around 350 pictures strung together in iMovie with 17 song clips, many from my grandma’s time, fading in and out with relevance to the pictures.
After the birthday party, among family, I presented the pocketbook to my grandma. She did not recognize it when I held it up, but when she looked at the picture – and when everyone looked at the picture for that matter – no one could believe it. The picture was set in Pasadena, CA in 1980, and here we were, 35 years later, in North Central Pennsylvania.
My grandma said no gifts for her party, but I gladly gave the pocketbook to her. Her mother died in 1988 and, after all these years, the pocketbook sparked joy in us as my grandma held onto a small piece of her mother that none of us ever could have predicted.
We tried to recreate the picture, my grandma now as the matriarch with the pocketbook dangling from her right hand, and I, as an adult-child in my mother’s arms, standing with my steadfast aunt. As I intently looked down at the pocketbook with the picture in my hand, I felt part of a deep and rich history of women.
As an after thought, I should have held my two-year-old daughter instead of the picture, but I guess she is not part of the story yet. Although, who knows? Maybe someday the pocketbook will find its way into her right hand while she is playing dress-up with a girlfriend. I hope the picture resides inside one of the compartments to remind her of an unprecedented kind of glamour.
One thing is for sure — I doubt that pocketbook will sit in a box for another 20 years anytime soon. Later in the evening, we used it to take up a collection for pizza to feed our giant multi-generational family. I think Marie Kondo would approve.