Storage units, I have come to learn, are a psychological device which enable us to move on – delude us into believing we will return, need this stuff, and effortlessly slip into our old life. For the last three years, I paid 250 dollars each month to maintain ours in Evergreen, Colorado. Today, as I type this, my unit – which is one of the largest available – is stuffed to overflowing. Yet I can not name ten things squirreled away inside. I wrote that check each month as a tithe of sorts, a faithful pledge which assured me the future would turn out okay because, after all, it was waiting for me.
Then, last week, we got “the call”. (Actually our son, Mike received the call). “Hey mom, bad news. It’s been really cold in Evergreen. It seems a pipe burst over your storage unit. They are not sure how much damage was done.” Over the last three years, our storage unit has morphed from a promise to an anchor. The future became the past. At some point, we need to return to Colorado and deal with it. We realize, our storage unit was the result of kicking the can. Pushing the problem down the road. Clinging to the belief that embedded in all those things, there must be a life.
In fairness to us, when we moved to Bratislava, we slogged through all the work of finding an apartment and securing work and residency permits (and specifically, the piles of documents legally required to file for work and residency permits). Pat had a mass of commitments in Evergreen to close out. Our dog needed a new home. We had two cars to sell and truckloads of combustibles, old paint, and home improvement leftovers to cart to the dump. We had to kick the can on something – so we kicked a whole bunch of cans into big, brown boxes which we sealed tightly and crammed inside a rented unit just down the road. (Full disclosure, I have never seen this storage unit. Pat, Mike, Emily, Ryan, and Taylor dealt with all this. Mike’s last words, I was told, as they all heaved against the door and strained to turn the lock were, “If mom ever sees this, dad is gonna die!”)
When I read Mike’s email of the potential damage, I bemoaned to Pat, “Why couldn’t it have been flattened by a tornado?” Or perhaps swept down an embankment by a flood? Torn apart in an avalanche? A miraculous natural disaster which dashed one lone storage unit. We were hoping for a call more like, “I’m sorry, Callahans. Your storage unit burned to the ground. Fortunately, no other unit was even singed.” In one swoosh of fate, our storage unit could have morphed into oblivion – problem solved.
This weekend, Pat talked to an Evergreen friend. This friend offered to bring his truck to the storage facility and help us move everything out when we return to the United States in March. But with no place to move anything to, and no tolerance to continue to spend 250 dollars every month, Pat suggested we just give it all away after carting to the dump those things which have been ruined. As Pat and I talked, we admitted we each have one item we would like to keep; Pat’s Bobby Orr hockey card and my father’s baby Christmas ornament.
That’s all. We distilled our entire storage unit (and, in fact, our entire over-sized house) into two items which fit into a shoe box. This begs the question, why didn’t we just walk away with a shoe box that last day when we turned over the keys to our house? We could have saved a ton of money. But let’s face it, life doesn’t work that way.
Most of us have to live through the cycle of possessions: dreaming, scheming, saving, purchasing, using, storing, and then praying they might be reduced to ashes. Few of us, it seems, manage to skip a single step.
So, this March, we will fly to Colorado for a long weekend; cart everything out of our storage unit; and divide it into piles: throw away (our mattress – which is no doubt moldy), sell (our bedroom furniture), and give away (tools, bikes, etc). We will need to sift through every single box (the good news, I culled massively before we sold our house). As fate tends to dictate, in the last box we will find a Bobby Orr card and a purple, crackled Christmas ball painted with white ducks which is bubble wrapped in a box inside a box inside a box like a set of Ukrainian nesting dolls.
Hopefully, we have learned our lesson and don’t repeat the cycle of possessions again. Each Christmas when we hang my father’s ornament on the tree (which is always the very last decoration to be added, and always with a bunch of “be careful, don’t drop it!” admonishments) we will think of him. We will turn up his favorite holiday song, Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas. We will tell a couple of grandpa Harry stories. And we will remind ourselves how few possessions in life ever really matter.
For those who asked about Thanksgiving dinner… at top is a picture of the feast. The goat leg substituted nicely for turkey. Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and family back home!