Series One/Post Two
Client: NPR Correspondent and Host, Jacki Lyden and Washington Post Photojournalist, Will O'Leary
Jacki's Project Diary
I used to go down into my husband’s basement whenever I wanted to get depressed. I’m normally a somewhat ebullient person, but there’s nothing like the good old cry you can have, staring around at all that stuff. Old tools. Boxes of first communion cards. Checks from 1991, and those ‘nude not naked’ pictures of old girlfriends my husband, a photographer, took when he was a knave. One of his friends had left behind a life-size thingy of Christopher Reeve as Superman, but I got rid of that a long time ago. The head was bent over. The whole place reminded me of a beautiful novel by the late Laurie Colwin, “A Big Storm Knocked It Over.”
When I moved in here from New York and added, really just a FEW bits and pieces (surprisingly little, being a gal who likes to travel light) –well, I worked on the house and garden. The whole joint was a challenge; and I do like those. But I am not an archivist of anyone’s life but my own and perhaps, my mother’s. Everyone else can fend for themselves… but all this STUFF. Once, trying to write an article, I wound up dumping old phone books all day instead. I wasn’t sure if I had married a hoarder, but it looked like it.
We pared it down over the last few years, but it was still anything but sightly. Sometimes, writing upstairs, I could feel the basement crowding me all the way up here to my garret.
And then Caitlin came. Poof! Things are in ZONES! I cannot touch my husband’s STUFF unless he AGREES. (This brought him around. He had once vowed that she would NEVER darken our doorway. It helped that she is Irish, too.) We have made a small castle of boxes around “his” table but meanwhile, we have gone ahead. It’s too bad that almost 10,000 dollars of new electrical work and a new furnance/air conditioner are not something you can really talk about at dinner parties. Anyway, back to the ZONES! (What if we'd spent that money going to Africa? Then we'd be cold when the furnace broke.)
I love zones! Zone 1, memories. Zone 2, athletic equipment or garden stuff, whatever. Zone 3, maps. She got me a map case—better, for me than jewels. Ok, not better but: good.
She never laughed at us! Not even when she held up an old boot of mine and a mouse had chewed right through it. Do you know how disgusting I found that? About as bad as the niger thistle seed I found everywhere. It’s birdseed, I kept saying. Bird seed.
My husband’s old photographic equipment could have opened a studio, and did something like that at a nearby high school. (I will have to be patient about old film negatives.) I found a movie poster I had had painted in Tehran, a woman’s huge face. I have a loft in Brooklyn; it’s too big for THAT. But now, it is going to hang in our basement AS A ROOM DIVIDER. HOW COOL IS THAT? When we were in Arlington for Will's aunt's funeral, (where the Hibernerian society meets) I lured him into Crate & Barrel and we bought a sofa for the basement. (I don’t know about you, but the last time I got to go shopping with my husband at a Crate & Barrel was about five years ago, once. I think we bought a vase.)
So today, when I should have been upstairs writing, I found my car going to IKEA. Who knew it could do that with me hardly even noticing? And there I was, measuring Billy Shelves again (too tall) and scoping out what else they had: just like I had done in my youth. Because let’s face it: there’s alot more IKEA ahead in our lives than we might have wanted to believe there would be before the term “credit default swap” came to our rosy lips. If I I had a skill with packing crates; you’d be eating on them or THEY’D be the new shelving. But it takes too long to find packing crates these days. And guess what? Caitlin's normally encyclopedic knowledge of organizing products was WRONG about the Billy bookcases; they’re too tall. But I found something else. Some red things with a Swedish name, like LINNEAROP. Aren’t you glad IKEA is yellow & blue for the Swedish flag? If it were Irish, it would be gold and white and green. Soon, though, I am going to need a third dwelling place for all the books.
Caitlin and I talk about our lives while we work. This is curatorial work. When I leave her, or she leaves me, carting off the ugly, useless crap--making our lives a little freer and more functional--I want to do a little pole vault right back up to my desk. Soon, I’ll have to go out to my husband’s man-cave of a garage to have that sobfest; because the basement is becoming a sanctuary of sanity.
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