Thursday, February 23, 2006

making space

These days I'm making space. Inside and out. For the kid, you know.

The project started with Readerware, and Brent cataloguing and labeling with Library of Congress numbers all the books currently in our possession. This began months ago. We own about a thousand books. So, now they're all, or at least all of them except for the ones most recently acquired (these are stacked up in Brent's "reading chair," waiting) properly labeled. The second step: choosing which ones we can box up and store. The third step: boxing, sealing, labeling the boxes and carrying them down to our storage cage in the basement. Thanks to my periodic but quite determined nagging, we got all this accomplished a week or so ago.

We have a lot more space now. A full 10 boxes of books are now down in the basement. We've moved a now-empty bookcase out of the bedroom and found it a new spot in the living room. Pretty soon, we'll move the furniture around a bit in the bedroom, and Baby ______ will have her own little nook in the corner with a changing table and a couple of cross-stitches from MOM to mark her space.

A couple days ago I decided to tackle clearing out the top shelf of my side of the bedroom closet. I've been storing all my pictures and memorabilia up there--mainly because the basement floods regularly and I didn't want my pictures ruined. But now we need the space.

So I began excavating. Things were semi-organized. I have a couple of scrapbooks, which I had every intention of filling with the best and most amusing pictures, labeled and dated, etc. One of them is completely empty (the leatherbound scrapbook with the fleur de lis, bought in Florence), and the other is partially full, but I haven't touched it in years. My pictures are still in stacks inside the envelopes of whatever drugstore developed them: Wal-Mart, Walgreens, the little Chinese envelopes. Some of them were just loose, and had little scraps of paper folded around them with topical labels: J & A, Ally's wedding, etc. And there were ziplocks full of old papers. Letters, mostly, which I found myself unable to throw away when going through the last of my things at the house in TN.

It became an archaeological project: digging through the layers of my past, organizing them, deciding which parts were golden and which were worthless. I didn't throw much away. Even the recorded history of the bleak times--the journal in the John Boy Walton-style Indian Chief tablet from Wal-Mart from the last year at Harding--was valuable, in its own way. I imagined someday that Baby _______ will find this box of dusty relics, and imagined her wide-eyed discovery that her mom is a person with hidden depths and angsts and who used to write bad poetry, and once thought she would never get married, and once thought she'd convinced herself she was okay with that. I imagined her astonishment at seeing so many pictures of mom on various dates through the years. Who would have thought that so many different guys would have found her interesting? I imagined her laughing at my hair and my funny clothes and at pictures of Aunt Ally and Auntie Em as children. I imagined her not even recognizing the grandparents--is this Nana really? Wow, when did Pop have hair?

It was cleansing, this taking stock of oneself, from a sort of distance. There's a lot in there I still wish hadn't happened and that I still remember feeling, even. But I own it. It's a recorded progress of me through time: the deadends and the bleak stretches of featureless highway, and the mountain peaks and far vistas of foreign lands, too. It's all of that. Maybe when Baby ______ discovers it I'll regret her knowing that I used to curse in my journal, that I dated, or whatever...but it will mean that in some measure she gets to know me, in retrospect, in a way that I can take for granted that I will get to know her, as a human being in motion through time, from the very beginning.

7 comments:

krister said...

you guys are such dorks putting labels on and cataloguing your books...now, how do I go about doing this? :)

Malibu Librarian said...

You guys are great. Seriously. :)

Malibu Librarian said...

PS. Krister, I don't know if Jen and Brent are using this, but I've taken a liking to:

http://www.librarything.com/

Jamie said...

Jen, this was a great post. I hope you're keeping your own person journal of this baby-experience now. And I can tell you this: if you wrote a book about finishing your PhD and having your baby with reflections like this filling the pages, I'd be one of the first to buy it.

JTB said...

Wow, Jamie, thanks. I can only hope the dissertation project is as well received, eh?

Tracy said...

Aw, look at you nesting!! Baby _____ is such a blessed little girl.

Jamie said...

What is the dissertation about? When it's done, I'll try to get it through whatever library I have at my disposal at the time.