My 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 youngest writers in my classes, is one of the packrats, and she managed to avoid writing about something she should throw away by skipping the next class.
The following week I assigned “Nine” in honor of Anna Perlberg’s memoir, The House in Prague. Anna is a writer in one of my classes, and her memoir starts in present tense from her nine-year-old point of view. Writers could do an essay about themselves as nine-year-olds or use the number nine in any other way they chose. Here is Nancy’s “Nine” essay in its entirety (the “Michael” she refers to in the essay is her husband, and “Evan” is their 27-year-old son).
by Nancy Lerman
Last week’s assignment was to write about one object we should give away but never will. That topic hit too close to home.
I am a packrat. My closets overflow with shoes, sweaters, books, linens and toiletries. A hoarder to the core, the thought of tossing puts me in a tizzy. Rather than write that essay, I played hooky. Yet deep in my unconscious the desire to let go simmered and stewed.
This week’s assignment is to write anything about the number nine. After a week of brooding I am ready. Grabbing a step-stool I begin the purge.
I’ll have nine in no time!
- Frye boots, circa 2001. I’ve always loved these shortie boots even though I haven’t worn them in over a decade. They were comfy for the first few years but then my knees started throbbing after 15 minutes of wear. Evan’s girlfriend politely declined when I tried to give them to her six months ago. Back in the dusty shoebox they went. Until now. Gone.
- Lemony-mustard-yellow Italian sling-back flats, circa 1988. These shoes’ surprisingly neutral color goes with virtually everything. Even so, I haven’t worn them in 20 years. (Five years ago I caved and parted with an identical pair in rosy-magenta.) I slip on the lemony flats. They’re still cozy. I’m giving them a test-wear while continuing to hunt for other give-aways.
- My deceased mother-in-law’s beige Dockers khaki pants. Never in a million-years would I buy a pair of preppy Dockers. But Dee did. She died, but her pants still hang in my closet. Someday they’ll be perfect for an African safari or Amazon boat ride. I’m not planning on either trip. Even if I were, the 5’2” Dee hemmed all her pants. These Dockers are way too short for me. Gone.
- Xeroxed flip-book of 12 recipes from our day at a cooking school in Saigon, Viet Nam. All 12 contain soy sauce, miso paste or hoisin. I’m allergic to soy. Gone.
- The Guinness Book of World Records for 2001. This was a Chanukah gift for toddler Evan. Gone.
- The Guinness Book of World Records for 2002. The 2002 book has a pre-holographic snazzy cover, very avant-guard for the time. Neither book has been touched since 2003. Gone.
I’m exhausted. Time for a snack. Prowling through my cupboard I unearth an unopened box of chocolate-mint-girl-scout cookies. Expiration, 2010. A tin of chocolate covered pretzels. Expiration, 2009. A Christmas mixed nut assortment, Expiration 1999. Gone. Gone. Gone.
These lemony-mustard-yellow sling-backs are keepers. I slip them off and the soles of my feet are covered with a white gooey substance. Shoving my footsies under the faucet doesn’t help.
“The lining is sticking to you,” Michael cackles and hands me a bottle of rubbing alcohol. I scrub for 10 minutes. Finally, the white is gone. So are the shoes.
Another stellar assignment from Beth!