Packing and Moving


In April 2012, to prepare for my retirement move to Sioux Falls, I decided that I was going to throw or give away at least five things a day, not counting paper memorabilia. Paper memorabilia I examined and tossed almost all.  My children’s school papers, notes to me, drawings, I put between plastic sheets and sent to them.   Student evaluations from 1987, most all gone, as well as research material that I will never shape and form into anything. I put my creative writing still to be polished in the file cabinet.

Old love letters from my second husband, I flung in the garbage, after tearing them up as if extracting a curse.  The one from the first, I will keep for the kids so they can have a laugh.  Besides it was written before he asked me to marry him.  Not much romance after the wedding.  I really should say, not any.  I kept all the letters from my mom, grandmothers, brothers, sisters, nieces–don’t think there is one from a nephew.  I didn’t throw away any pictures, except old high school classmates, for most of them I couldn’t recognize if they stood on my porch.

Every day for over a year, missing a few days here and there, I scanned the detritus that comprised my tangible goods. I sorted through furniture, knickknacks, dishes, clothes, old tools.  At first it was easy.  Now making choices is rather difficult.

First I tackled the double-stacked books in the eight seven-feet high bookshelves in my home and those in the four bookcases in my office. I separated the books I could live without from those I must have and those I hope to sell.  A vision of mine was someday to own a bookstore slash coffee shop slash wine shop/dessert shop somewhere, but that dream has faded, for I find that I lack the energy and the desire to cater to anyone anymore.

I presented stacks of books to students as they wandered in and out of my office.  One young theatre major received most of my drama books.  I kept Pinter, O’Neill, Chekhov, Brecht, my collection of Shakespeare, and some other classics.  I’m past directing any more; and if I ever act again it will be a final hurrah, for I really don’t want to spend five to six weeks rehearsing anything. There were two roles I wanted to do before I died–Medea in Medea and Mother in Marsha Norman’s ‘Night, Mother.  I’m way too old for Medea, but if someone I trusted and admired wanted to direct me in ‘Night, Mother before I get too old to wipe spittle off my chin, I might consider it.  As far as directing, I concluded some time ago in Dickinson that the way I direct is not amenable to personalities here.  Ideally I prefer that actors memorize their parts before blocking begins. That way the character develops as the play develops, and the actor/character becomes a collaborator in the process.  But oh, well–Been there; done that.

I’ve had successes directing.  One of my former high-school students obtained her MFA in theatre; she retired before I did.  Another student I directed became Miss America 1974 and sang for my wedding.  She played the chorus in Anouilh’s Antigone, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn in Music Man, Calamity Jane in Deadwood Dick, and Mrs. Wright in Trifles.  When she came to Sioux Falls to see me during her Miss America tour, I met her with my three kids in tow. But I was in the middle of a disastrous marriage, and felt exposed for some reason and intimidated.

Books of poetry I kept most, except those poets with whom I still can’t connect.  Fiction I gave most away, except Faulkner, Vonnegut, some books I haven’t read yet but hope to.  Literary criticism, I kept most.  Some history books–gone.

Boxes of books, three I think, I hauled to the library. They will be recycled or sent to those in need.  Clothes I either tossed in the garbage or donated; some I snapped pictures and sold on Ebay along with the china and crockery and jewelry and shoes I no longer want or can wear.

Soon I will post an ad selling some furniture, a treadmill, a lawn mower, other garden stuff.

The problem is even though it’s becoming more difficult to find things to discard or give away, more stuff emerges hidden away in boxes, underneath steps, on shelves, things I have forgotten about.  The newest piece of furniture I have is my bed, 2006.  Prior to that my sofa and the entertainment center, 2002.  The oldest piece of furniture I have is my bedroom set–1978.   If it wasn’t for my mother’s bureau dresser and the cedar chest that I inherited and the hall table I bought in memory of my mother, I would get rid of every piece of furniture I have.

The more I discard, the freer I feel.  It’s like a cloud of dissatisfaction lifts with each toss.  My burdens lighten.

Creative Writing, Essays, Packing and Moving


Accumulation, the bane of modern existence. Conspicuous consumption, downright immoral.  I am over 60 and not a hoarder by any means, except for clothes and shoes, and my daughter says dishes.

In August I had a rummage sale.  A great deal of “stuff” sold; but I still kick myself, not for selling the things I sold, but for buying them in the first place.  Vintage Royal Copley planters, two alike,  I purchased for a song at a rummage sale in Omaha many, many years ago. They have never held a plant of mine.  Japanese occupation cups, saucers, salt and pepper shakers I won at an auction. A  metal file folder not ever screwed into the wall as it should have been. A vintage dresser sold for $10 less than I paid some eight years ago; worth over $200 now but not in Dickinson.  More pottery. Knickknacks. Christmas, Halloween decorations still in boxes.  Fabric, Fabric, Fabric  I’ve had for years and years and years, but I haven’t pinned a pattern to cloth since 1994, when writing my dissertation.

Writing a dissertation that deconstructed dialogue in women’s plays should have nothing to do with pattern and fabric purchases I bought at the same time like a demented fiend.  Pins, needles, even a serger, although an inexpensive demonstrator from a Singer store in Harlan, Iowa, where my mother and I sauntered in to pick out a black covered button for my leather coat.  The serger sold at the rummage sale; the coat I donated to Arcade two years ago. That last semester between teaching four classes, writing and polishing 200 pages of my dissertation, and applying for jobs, I made myself an assortment of 19 dresses, skirts, blouses, and even a jacket.  None of them are in my closet; all have been given away or sold a long time ago.  The dresses I mailed to my sister. After the rummage sale, along with my car’s trunk and backseat stuffed with boxes of items not sold, I donated a huge box of patterns to the Arcade–unopened dress, outfit patterns, skirt patterns too small for me, some blouse patterns I truly love.  Sewing calmed me down that spring semester of 1994 and relieved the stress of writing the dissertation while teaching.   I should have lifted weights at gym.

I sewed both my wedding dresses: the first one, white satin; the second, grey–different patterns, different lengths; the first had a veil.  Each tossed after each divorce.  I made friends’ prom dresses, emerald, black, cranberry– luscious–and my own.  I’ve patched and hemmed more jeans than I care to remember, sewed costumes in college, polyester pants for my brother, dresses for my mother, clothes for my kids when they were little–knits all the rage then.  I machine-quilted four bedspreads and a table cover.  My oldest son, now 45, recently discarded the one I quilted for his college dorm.  He had the thread-bear rag of grey and red in back of a work truck. The first dress I ever constructed, other than the one in Home Economics class, I goofed up considerably.  A date with a new high-school boyfriend, him picking me up that night in a ’57 Chevy, and marathon sewing that resulted in an errant slip with a pinking sheers in the front panel of the skirt.  “Too much of a hurry,” my aunt said. She showed me how to fix the tear so I could wear it to the Donna Reed Movie Theater  in Denison.

I’ve shoes I’ve never worn and never will, because of their 3″ plus height, for I totter not like Jennifer Simpson on her high heels–I have to hold onto something in order not to fall.  Most of them I bought on Ebay.  I’ve sold three of the ten pair I don’t wear.  There’s a pair of Chinese Laundry white with a 3″ heel brand new, if you want them.  This morning I listed a pink cable-knit sweater, a cranberry velveteen one, yellow snow boots–all with tags, all purchased from Ebay.  On Ebay is a Korean hot pot that I bought at a rummage sale for $10; now worth over $100, but mine listed hasn’t sold for $75 dollars. I’ve sold a dress I bought for $39 for $39.  Breaking even is my style.

I’ve binged on Chico’s necklaces on Ebay and even bought a couple of rings. One of the necklaces my daughter  says is Ugggly.  I am going to relist it and others.  Over the years, I’ve only returned one item to a buyer, a vintage Chico’s necklace, a choker with a huge reddish pink stone in the center that unwrapped looks like a tongue with crystals in a line to the tip as if pierced. Immediately I sent it back.  I e-mailed  the seller, “I couldn’t wear it,” and she e-mailed back, “Why?”   When I told her, she said, “not a problem, you really made me laugh-never thought of that but now that I look at it, it could be lol-could have been a perfect Halloween piece (haha) who wouldn’t want to wear a tongue around their neck lol.” I would never have worn that thing around my neck on Halloween or any other day, but I should have given it to a friend of mine whose Halloween baubles really rock, as she says.

The older I get, the less I want, the more I discard.  I think of all the dividends my money could have earned instead of buying.  So far since June I’ve sold over $600 worth of items on Ebay–not bad, some for what I paid.  And I have only put a dent into all that I want to sell. I think the purchases of inexpensive rummage sale items and cheap jewelry from Ebay have a lot to do with growing up poor and soaking my toes in poverty while raising three kids on my own. I couldn’t afford big stuff so I bought little stuff.  I should have put that money in mutual funds and stock, but not in Enron, which I had and lost a bunch.  Now my retired friends are traveling to this country and that, from California to the New York Island eating steak and lobster, Indian food in fine places, visiting museums, seeing vistas from mountain tops and seashores, while scenes of Paris and Holland entice me on the Travel Channel.