Something you should throw away…but you probably never will

May 28, 2016 • Posted in blindness, memoir writing, Uncategorized by

A ratty old handmade afghan. A Tunturi Executive Ergometer W Original stationary bicycle. A batik flamingo. A collection of broken watches. A 49-year-old steam iron. That list is a small sampling of the precious items the writers in my memoir classes wrote about when I assigned “Something I own that I should throw away…and probably never will.”

There's the Tunturi Executive that lives on. And on.

There’s the Tunturi Executive that lives on. And on.

Writers had all sorts of reasons for keeping their treasures. Kathy grew up in Kentucky, and when she moved to Chicago as a young adult she realized she was afraid to ride her bicycle in city traffic. “But a stationery bike! A Tunturi Executive Ergometer W Original! That could be the answer!” With a convenient bookrack on the handlebars, she was sure she could shape up her “post-4-pregnancies-body” while simultaneously upgrading her “literary bona fides.”

You can guess the rest. For nearly 50 years now, Kathy’s Tunturi Executive Ergometer W Original has sat idle in one room after another. eBay calls the Tunturi Executive Ergometer W Original “vintage” and offers one for $50. “But eBay will never get mine!” Kathy declared in her essay. “It isn’t exactly new, but it certainly isn’t used! I will use it someday. Just call me a cock-eyed optimist.”

After going on a special tour of Chicago’s Field Museum and seeing thousands upon thousands of relics stashed away in “huge mausoleum-like chests of drawers where no human is likely to accidentally see them,” Al reasoned it is absolutely fine for him to squirrel away dozens of old dead watches in a drawer at home. He wears his father’s elegant Bulova Watch from time to time. “It’s accurate at least twice a day.”

Mary Lou’s brown, rust and orange-colored afghan was made by a cousin who contracted polio when the two of them were ten. Her cousin Susan wore a back brace and used a wheelchair, but she had enough mobility in her hands to take up crocheting. Susan was especially fond of Mary Lou’s father, and he was the first to receive one of her handmade afghans. “A great fuss was made at the presentation,” Mary Lou wrote. “So now you understand why I will never discard that raggedy afghan.”

Lorraine’s essay described the two-foot tall shocking pink flamingo on black silk her husband gave her when their first baby girl was born and said it still reeks of the ‘80’s, cigarette smoke and all. “If it had been a jacket instead of a wall-hanging, it would be on sale at Etsy Vintage for $32.” Lorraine’s husband died when their baby girl was seven years old. “Flamingos no longer decorate cool bars and chic eateries or loft apartments.” Lorraine wrote. “They are as scarce as they are in real life. I still have one.”

When Regan’s baby Joe was born, her mother gifted her with an iron so she could iron the baby’s clothes. “My mother, Agnes, went to church at the ironing board,” Regan wrote, describing how ironing had calmed her mother’s nerves – and relieved her mother’s hangovers – when Regan was growing up. “As she conquered the wrinkles at hand her furrowed malcontented brow smoothed out,” Regan wrote. Wondering why she’s held on to the iron her mother gave her all those years ago? Find out by reading Regan’s essay in its entirety. Regan publishes her essays on her own Back Story blog.



Cheryl On May 28, 2016 at 10:37 am

Thanks for the highlights of these stories. They are so good. Such talented writers.

bethfinke On May 28, 2016 at 10:47 am



Mel Theobald On May 28, 2016 at 11:28 am

What a fun topic. If only we could narrow the list down to “one” thing, it would be so simple. Every year I tell myself to take the piles in the corners of my home to the Dearborn Park flea market. And every year they just seem to grow larger. Someday, maybe someday, if I ever figure it out, just maybe you’ll find me there behind a small mountain of stuff that once seemed indispensable. Then I’ll be forced to isolate that one final treasure. But sadly, I know that is not likely to happen anytime soon. Thanks for these stories Beth.

bethfinke On May 29, 2016 at 11:10 am

One thing at a time, Mel. You can do it!


Kim On May 28, 2016 at 3:42 pm

My hubby is an optimistic hoarder with piles of stuff in closets, under beds and in drawers. During a recent house renovation which included having a dumpster on our property, I forced him to go through all of it. His reasons for wanting to keep particular items were hilarious. During the great-throw-away, the construction guys caught on and began to dive into our dumpster during their lunch hour. Proving to my husband that I was forcing him to get rid of “good stuff.” We managed to thin the herd enough that now he won’t qualify for that TV show about hoarders. I hope!

bethfinke On May 29, 2016 at 11:11 am

Keep hope alive, Kim…


Regan Burke On May 28, 2016 at 7:59 pm

thank you, dear Beth.

bethfinke On May 29, 2016 at 11:16 am

You are welcome, dear Regan.


Linda Miller On May 30, 2016 at 8:25 am

Fun piece and prompt!

bethfinke On May 30, 2016 at 7:37 pm

It was. The class I lead on Mondays is working on on this topic over the Memorial Day weekend, so I can look forward to hearing about their treasures on June 6, too. those J


9 things to throw away | Safe & Sound blog On June 19, 2016 at 12:09 pm

[…] assignment to write a 500-word essay about One Thing I Own that I Should Throw Away but Probably Never Will exposed a few of the writers in my memoir classes as…gasp….hoarders! Nancy Lerman, one of the […]

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