Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Storage

When I was in New York last week, the goal was to start cleaning out the closets of that apartment.  Mostly because that process is way overdue.  Partly because there is in my mind a possible end date to being bi-coastal.  I'd love to keep up two homes but, as time moves on, it gets a little harder financially.  But, still, the Yonkers/Hastings border abode is a touchstone for me and my early life in Westchester, New York.  To do away with that completely is tantamount to trying to completely erase the past.

Meanwhile, I deal with the fact that the NY domicile is a bit of a storage area for the first half of my life.  In one closet is my guitar.  Yes, a guitar.  And I played it for about five weeks in the sixth grade.  I did my best to learn from a manual.  And the only song I learned to play?  The theme song from "Bonanza."  Well, at least, the first eight bars.  For some reason, I feel a need to keep this thing. 

At the bottom of that same closet is a two-drawer file cabinet.  Loaded with nothing but Playbills.  Years and years of Broadway.  I don't dare stop and look more closely because I can get sidetracked for days.

In another closet, I have tossed a lot of my parents' stuff.  You see the top two shelves in the photo above.  Things that I have yet to toss into a dumpster.  Why?  You hold on for a reason, even if it isn't clear to see.  I listen to a parental voice in my head and it scolds me.

"You threw out my Technicolor slide carrier."

That's the suitcase-like contraption in the upper right hand corner.  It contains about five years of photo slides in projector loaders that have long since stopped being used by all of us.  I have already taken those slides and had them converted to a DVD.  You frequently see the screen shots here on a Sunday.  I want to pull it down and haul it over the terrace.  But, then....

"You threw out my Technicolor slide carrier."

Yeah, well.  My trip ended and I still had not moved it from the top shelf perch.

You can plainly see a Christmas tree.  Yep, the artificial one that I put up for about twenty years before moving to Los Angeles, where an honest-to-God real tree goes up every year.  The New York tree was one of those snap-together quickies, although I always seemed to have an issue with one of the middle branches.  It was green as I remember it.  If I opened the box now, why color would I find?

Meanwhile, there's another box on the bottom of this closet that goes hand-in-hand with the Christmas tree.  A box of ornaments from my mother.  I still would use them on my tree.  Most were tarnished.  Angels were missing wings.  Reindeer were missing limbs.  And, as I have documented during Christmas posts, one elf's head came off the rest of his body.

The box is still there.  Because there's another voice in my head.

"You can't throw that out.  Do you know how much I paid for those decorations?"

I see my mom's jewelry box in there and that certainly would have been cleaned out by yours truly if there was anything valuable in there.  But, my mother was big into the costume bauble stuff, which made the junk on the Home Shopping Network look like it was from Harry Winston.

Ah, we see some board games.  Monopoly.  Trouble.  Scrabble.  All came to me from my childhood home in Mount Vernon, New York.  These were trucked out every holiday. Trouble always seemed to be particularly competitive for my relatives and, invariably, accusations of cheating would be flying across the table as the rhubarb pie was being served with coffee.

As I look at the shelves, I see them starting to cave in.  Perhaps my decision will be made for me by the next trip.  When I find that the contents have spilled out onto the floor.

Moving on, I see tucked away on the top of this closet a relic that I have looked at in the past. 

My grandmother's strong box.

Again, I open it.  And revisit the contents one more time.   Because I can. 

I often lament that, as most of my parents' generation has passed on, I have fewer and fewer connections to my family's history. And most questions don't have answers.  Little information was shared then.  Even less is available now.  But this strong box always gives me a little something to chew on.  Even if they are stories told to me previously.
Somehow, I wound up being the keeper of this metal mini-file cabinet.   It's not large, but Grandma had everything neatly sorted.  Typical.

There's lots of correspondence with the War Department following the WWII death of what would have been my uncle. He was killed in the south of France in early May, 1945...just a few days before V-E Day.

And another captivating passport to a different place and time.

The original deed and mortgage to the Mount Vernon, New York house that my grandparents bought in 1948.

This would be my first home and the place I lived up until college. My grandparents (Father's side) had lived most of the time in the Bronx on Paulding Avenue. I suppose this was their Jeffersons move. To that deluxe home to the north. The fancy shmancy suburbs. 

Mount Vernon when it was elite. Mount Vernon when it was clean. Mount Vernon when it was actually livable.

The thing that always grabs my attention is the price of the house.


Probably a lot of jack back then, but I spent almost that on the plasma TV and sound system in Los Angeles. There's also an invoice from their lawyer on the sale.

For his services rendered....$29.50.


But, it really isn't the lesson in economic inflation that is my continual takeaway from peering into these papers.

Because, you see, the mortgage on the house was not held by a bank, but one of my grandparent's friends. In-laws twice removed. The parents of the woman that my father's other brother, Scary Uncle Fritz, married.  I remember these old codgers vaguely. Actually, the only true memory I have of the man was that he later would become the first person I would ever see laid out in a casket. Okay, that was last week's saga.

I always imagine how this all unfolded. These people were pinochile buddies of my grandparents. They lived in Mount Vernon. They probably were after my grandparents to get the hell out of the Bronx...even then. I can hear my grandparents say that they didn't have the dough for the housing upgrade.

And they probably said they wouldn't trust a bank for a mortgage, since the recovery from the crash of 1929 was still a fresh wound in their passbooks. So, the other half of the pinochile quartet said that they would front the cash.

And, so it happened...


Of course, there was left nothing to chance. There were extensive documents heralding this loan of $3,000. And, also in the strongbox, there are almost five years of monthly receipts that acknowledged my grandparents were paying back the loan.

At the lofty clip of $ 60 per month at 4% interest.

By 1953, they were done.


It was amazing to see how civilized they all were about this.   It truly was another time, another place, and another generation.

I closed the lid of the strongbox one more time.


I don't accomplish nearly as much cleaning out as I wanted to do.  I think about my next sojourn East and a potential call to 1-800-JUNK.  

And then there's a third voice in my head.  This one has a German accent.

"Junk???  This isn't junk."

Dinner last night:  Hunan beef at Hunan Cafe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Get rid of it. I wasted money on storage for almost 20 years. I tossed 90% of it, including a box of Playbills.

Then I cleaned my apartment. I tossed most of that crap.

Old stuff owns you. Turn off the scolding voices in your head. You'll feel better.