“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” Chapter 18 “Tchotchke-free Zones”
By Bruce Williams
As my wife puts out the Halloween decorations, I chuckle when she hovers around my chair trying to gently place a small faux pumpkin on the adjoining bookshelf. “No…just no,” I intone without looking up, as I curmudgeonly shake my head and cover the space with my big, fat, hairy hand. She shrugs and rolls her eyes as she continues to float around the room, effervescently dropping her holiday cheer onto every available flat surface—a yoga-panted, ponytailed fairy. At this point, some of you might feel sorry for this poor, oppressed angel, having to live with such an obvious ogre—a tyrant really—but let me defend myself and my sanity for just a wee moment.
The ledge next to my chair is a multipurpose desk for a variety of legitimate usages: writing checks (yep, still do that), setting the newspaper and coffee pot down and at the ready, having the handful of books I’m currently reading adroitly available, a place to set and charge my phone—which I tend to do all my writing on…. There are really only a few spots in the whole house that I can still claim to have carved out as my own—clutter and tchotchke-free. The aforementioned one by my chair, the dresser next to my bed (though Lou likes to watch tv in our room and she’s a maelstrom of debris—leaving behind water glasses, straws, candy wrappers, her furry pink phone case, an iPad, mermaid dolls, dirty plates and Sharpies), my side of the bathroom sink I share with the wonderfully boundaryless Jack, and the shelf in the garage where I keep my tool kit (its flat surface sometimes irresistibly tempting for anonymous discarders to set their rubbish on top of). Oh—and my car. That’s it. Between the wife, two kids and the dog, those are the last of my disorderly- and hotchpotch-free sanctuaries.
Don’t get me wrong…I love the chaos a family creates, and I’m all for holiday decorations, but I still need a couple of spots in my life that don’t have ceramic Santas or oddly evil-looking stuffed Easter Bunnies malevolently eyeballing me as I sit in revered peace. Turkey candles, heart banners, snow villagers, dancing skeletons, pastel eggs…I come home from work, and there they are—covering those last unadorned bastions of tranquillity. It’s become somewhat of a humorous game of chess with Michelle and I, she placing them there thinking she indeed knows what’s best for me, and me systematically moving them elsewhere when she’s out of the room like some winking Elf on the Shelf—this married tango of unspoken determination.
We’ve lived in this house for a full fifteen years now, and I’ve given up on parking a car in the garage years ago. Between all the holiday decor, the stuff our moms and grandmas have gifted us, the seasonal backyard apparati (above ground pool, umbrella & seat cushions, outdoor faucet covers, sporting equipment, etc.), and the mysterious garbage sack filling Beelzebub who continually discards lumpy, unstackable bags haphazardly tossed in a pile (I’m imagining with a maniacal cackle?), the bi-yearly purges evacuating just enough room to accommodate the incoming detritus to create a sort of ongoing, oscillating equilibrium. We finally tossed our high school trophies (“What are you going to do with them—put them on the mantle?” “Well, no…”) When yet another new storage facility pops up in our neighborhood—as foolproof a business model amongst suburban moms as a casino set next to a freeway—and she ponders aloud how neat it’d be to have an auxiliary location for all our seasonal merchandise as I rotate the newspaper slightly around to cover my face and pretend that I don’t hear. We both know full well that’d just be another quickly-filled, outsized junk drawer to sort through.
As I sit here and look around admiringly at all the stuff Michelle’s put out for Halloween this year, it does bring a smile to my face. She’s gone ahead and made this place a home despite all of my tiresome instincts—her perseverance in the face of opposition and her furrowed resolve at creating cheer despite my dry sighs, old books and black coffee is truly laudable. Darkness and light we are…what would I (we) do without her?