I tend to over-pack. Even an over-night trip to the beach means more baggage than my partner Sara or any traveler in their right mind would want to deal with.
“Aren’t you mostly going to wear swim suits?” she insists—her question, a disguised assertion that I have once again crowned myself the queen of too much stuff.
As I’ve said before, this tendency to over-pack is more than any ordinary sickness—a cough and cold, so to speak. It’s a disease, the plague. It’s a life-altering illness, chronic, terminal, a death sentence especially to any traveling companion with an empty hand.
However, as it is with bags, so it also is with boxes. Sara insists I’m a pack-rat—a hoarder even—an ugly accusation in my mind.
Yes, I may give new meaning to the notion of belongings. And moving may not always be easy. I have a lot of books and art supplies. But I’m a creative person, who needs the tools of her trade—a bin of empty cat food cans here, a tower of potential art there.
I was already this way—overly belonginged—boxed, bagged, or otherwise—when, in 2001, only days after moving, I still stood among mountains of stuff—attempting to unpack my ordinary life within the spatial constraints of government-subsidized housing—so much stuff—so little space.
It was early morning on the East coast. I was whittling away at the unpacking task—the Today Show on in the background—a newsy noise making what I feared might be isolation in this new housing option, less so—making me feel more connected to the larger world apart from poverty and the economic effort to get by.
Then, elbow deep in a box of bedding and hand towels, I heard the announcement. A commercial plane had hit the World Trade Center—exploded. Tower One was burning, and life as we knew in America had ended. It was obvious. We had been attacked—and on our own soil, no less.
So standing among my boxes—my living room a cliché of American excess even in the context of poverty—I was suddenly afraid. What was I doing here? We had been attacked, and I was attempting to settle in what seemed an outback of subsidized housing.
I was asking myself this, when a neighbor knocked on my door. Kathleen—all white hair and walker with wheels—my first visitor at Briarwood—a welcome distraction.
We bonded watching the disaster of 9/11 unfold from my well-boxed living room—a life contained in cardboard towering in the corner near the window. I’d found my first bit of community in this strange place on this ugly day.
Still, I wondered if Section 8 housing had narrowed my neighbor’s options to mere medical bills and Meals on Wheels—a rubble of life’s last gasp.
Was this place ground zero on my way to personal defeat—no New York Times, no Shakespeare in the park—a tower of culture crumbling at my feet?
But, is it crazy to catastrophize in the context of national disaster? To fear the worst when the world all around you is burning?
What would the future hold for me, my neighbor, my country? Where did we all stand on this continuum of cultural madness?
Only time could tell.
Only time could define our place on this bell curve of cultural crazy—
And only a whole lot of old-lady-love could transform this one-time over-packer into home-owner in a matter of 5 short years . . .
Now–about those bags . . .
Please note that on June 30th, blog friend Mark at the Idiot Speaketh will be doing a fund-raising bike ride to support flood relief efforts in Minot, North Dakota. To read about Mark’s marathon and how you can donate to the American Red Cross, click here. I hope you will join me in sponsoring Mark’s ride!