When I wear a mask, I’m operating under two premises.  I’m protecting you by covering my face in case I’m contagious.  Also, in my heart, I feel safer from you in case you sneeze in my face while exercising your God-given,Constitutional right to not wear a mask and risk my life.

One thing I think no one would argue (but I’m naive that way and of course someone will always argue): the issue about wearing or not wearing masks is really about something else.  And that something else may vary from person to person.  I’ve spent the last 6+ years moving around this country to various medical communities in an attempt to keep my husband alive.  So, yeah, I wear a mask. You probably have a different reason. But I will say that it’s ugly the way people have gone crazy on social media about the mask issue.  It hasn’t been pretty, folks, and it may be hard for some of us to look in the mirror when (if) this is over.

And speaking of the mirror, here’s where an eye mask would come in handy.  Today I looked down on my newly showered body, something that admittedly I have a lot more time to do, and saw my mother’s legs.  It was inevitable but I think I could’ve ignored it for a few more years were I not trapped in my home with a freezer full of drumsticks (the ice cream kind).  I can still get into all of my clothes but now they leave marks on my body.  I could weigh myself, something I NEVER do (it’s a policy of mine) but I don’t want “getting on the scale” to be listed as my cause of death.

Some people say that the world will never be the same.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  One way I think things could improve is by slowing down our acquisition of STUFF.  The irony here, of course, is the reality that the USPS and UPS folks are now my best friends.  But even as I purchase more so-called essentials online, I am filling my guest room with the detritus of my life.  The stuff falls into various categories but a big one is all the things I bought when I was working and had 72 people working for me so I gave big parties.  So the roaster/three dish warmer is leaving my cupboard, where it has sat silent and hulking since 2012.  Also heading to the animal rescue thrift store are the griddle, the large and small punch bowls, many serving plates, extra utensils, and candles, candles, candles.   I also don’t need the 36 plates and 36 wine glasses I bought for fundraising events.  And the vases. I REALLY don’t need the 100+ vases I’ve received or collected in case someone asks me to do the flowers for his/her wedding.  No one has asked me to do more than a flower arrangement since 2014.  And for that wedding I decorated a dozen ball jars with lace, burlap and pearls and bought four large vases and pitchers, all of which I still have. I have to admit that most of these things may still “spark joy” because I loved giving those big parties and helping friends with theirs.  Part of me wants to keep the plates in case Molly needs them again for her Christmas Eve party with her grandma who hates paper plates.  Grandma passed I don’t know how many years ago so I guess the plates can go. 

We live in a very large house built in 1958.  It’s not a mid-century gem with cool, carefully preserved  glass bricks, interesting room dividers, and plaster walls.  Rather it’s a ruthlessly redecorated and renovated ranch style home that was stripped of personality and “beiged” into a paneled, neutral nightmare in the late 1980’s.  So, many of things I’ve acquired or spent money on have fallen into the category of redecorating.  And if I hadn’t gone through an inexplicable “farmhouse” period, there would be fewer ball jars and bread boxes to donate.  Right now I’m having two plaid chairs recovered to fit in with the bohemian/mid-century style I aspire to but never achieve.  If I hadn’t already ordered fabric and paid for the reupholstering before the quarantine, I wouldn’t do it now.  I would donate those damn chairs or just cover them since Mike is unnaturally attached to them.  The most embarrassing thing about this purge is that this house has tons of storage and we have used it all. The second most embarrassing thing is that I know better than to load myself down with all…this…stuff.

When I was six my family moved from Spain, where my father was stationed, to Maryland.  None of my toys and prized possessions made the trip stateside.  Gone was the doll with the handmade bridal dress and trousseau, gone were the china dogs my dad brought home from the countries he flew to, gone was the tiny silver tea service a friend of my parents had brought me from Germany.  You might assume that this scarred me for life and maybe it did.  As a child I had no collections because I knew what happened when you collected things.  As a young adult I could put all of my possessions in my car and move in a day.  As a new teacher I emphatically resisted the lure of classroom decor, even as students repeatedly gave me macrame owls.  I finally put one up in my classroom just to ward off future owls. I once moved into a classroom with an entire wall of windows covered with macrame curtains (I guess that’s what they were).  I called the previous, now retired, teacher whose room it had been and asked if he wanted the “hideous macrame coverings.” Guess who made them? Yup, another moment in faux pas history. 

So, anyway, when did all this “travel light” philosophy go down the drain? Partly it was because of my students.  I would purchase stuff and put up bulletin boards in the summer and then I was done.  For the year.  My students, depending on their level of kindness, would either ask me if “anything was ever going to change” in my room or bring me things to put up on my walls.  But the main reason my resistance to acquiring things broke down was marrying a collector.

When I married Mike in 1995 I was already lugging around literal baggage from my deceased husband who (no exaggeration) saved everything he ever owned.  Mike seemed to be fairly unencumbered, but that turned out to be misleading.  Just like how he told me he wasn’t addicted to sports, but that’s another story.  Early in our marriage I found out how much Mike liked antique furniture and books.  Okay, I had antique bookcases so that was good.  But then the collecting started.  First Mike was interested in Art Deco because I had a lamp and a mirror he admired.  So he started collecting Art Deco clocks and then radios.  That expanded into any clock or old radio including large, floor models (we have three).  There have been other obsessions, I mean collections, but they all have one thing in common.  They never go away.  Even worse, I have been lured into participating.

We were visiting friends in Seattle and I purchased a beautiful blue and gold tea cup and saucer.  I casually mentioned that maybe (maybe is the operative word) I would get tea cups from places we visited.  It seemed like an innocent remark.  The following month was December and for Christmas Mike presented me with a large collection of antique tea cups and saucers in both traditional and demitasse sizes.  I think there were more than 20.  After that my sister foisted—I mean generously gave—me the cups my mother had foisted on her.  At that point I had 30+ cups and no place to display them.  Plus I didn’t want to display them.  I started a collection of tea things for the daughters of one of my friends and, among the teapots, cozies, and spoons, I managed to offload some of the cups.  But the majority of them are stored in a sideboard and never see the light of day.  

Today I find myself in house full of things that somebody else will hopefully like, use, and then pass on to another person, thereby extending the time before it arrives at the landfill.  And that is why my guest room is crammed with donations and why I will keep adding to the piles. I’m at the point where I don’t want anything unless I can eat it, drink it, or plant it.  And after 73 days of being in my house or yard, I am overwhelmed with a lifetime of buyer’s remorse.  When I take these things to the thrift store I will be happy to give and a little ashamed of all I have.  And I will be wearing a mask.