The tunnel at the end of the light


‘I’ve changed my mind about Swedish Death Cleaning’

The Peterson half of me is very put out with the Henry half — blaming those French forbears for allowing drawers to fill, shelves to overpopulate and closets to clutter up.

Why, it must have been the Henry side of my brain that foolishly ignored the call of Swedish Death Cleaning back in 2018 when this book came out:

Premise: Get rid of your stuff now so your kids don’t have to deal with it after you’re dead. Suffice it to say that it is not a comic memoir

I even wrote a piece pooh-poohing this phenomenon, called “Out with the Old Year, but not out with the Old Stuff. Yet.”

Oh, silly silly me.

Those of you who read my stuff regularly — bless you — know that we’re downsizing, and that I’ve had two sweeps of movers come to remove things from the Old Apartment. The first time was when all my most beloved belongings got purged by the Stagers. (See “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” for heart-breaking details.)

This was pretty much the only piece of furniture that made it into the new apartment. It used to be a bridge table. Now it is the only table

The second time was a couple of weeks ago when my posse of wiry Big John’s guys carted all the Big Stuff — buffet, dining table, china cabinet, designer anvils, and so on and so forth — out to the Amagansett House (which could use a little Death Cleaning itself, I’m thinking).

A really big (and seriously heavy) piece was this 9-foot dining table, seen strewn with lamps and shades. You can almost hear the moving men panting

But the Big Stuff was just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the stuff — the contents of all those drawers and shelves and closets I mentioned, and the cubbies and pantries and medicine cabinets I didn’t — would sink the Titanic faster than you can say “Jack Dawson.”

The (partial!) contents of One. Single. Cabinet

I found this (my Ad Biz sample reel) in a drawer, took a picture of it, then (gulp) threw it out

Dude Man and I have been packing and unpacking and repacking boxes of 27-years-in-residence detritus and toting it thither and fro for weeks now. (Note: those “banker’s boxes” you can get online? Worth every darned penny. We’ve used and reused ours till we’re blue in the face — but they’re still holding up.)

Banker’s boxes. Use ’em once, use ’em again and again. And one more time after that   

I almost forgot — in case you are wondering why I switched things around instead of saying “the light at the end of the tunnel,” here’s the story. Besides the fact that it seems like no end is in sight re: our move — Dude, yesterday: “Let’s finish packing tonight; we’re about done, after all.” Me: “Are you kidding? We haven’t touched the cleaning supplies. Or the pantry. Or the closet in the hall with the sheets and towels and laundry stuff.” His Dudeness: “Oh.”

Some fancy clutter finds a new home. Yes, yes, I’m going to prune this collection. Somewhat

Besides that fact, it reminds me of the first time I switched the phrase around. Which was back in the Before Times when Dude Man and I were on a birding tour of the Brazilian Amazon Basin. It is wildly gorgeous there, but, in all seriousness, the hottest place I have ever been. Even hotter than Borneo, and that’s saying something. We were mostly in the shade, it being the rainforest and all, but at the end of a particularly sweltering morning, we had to cross a field that had been cleared for growing something-or-other. (Manioc?)

As we staggered, Bataan Death-March-style across the sun-blasted field, I said, pointing to the shady trail on the other side, “Oh look! There’s a tunnel at the end of the light!”

Yup. A tunnel at the end of the light

New York City. September 2020

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4 thoughts on “The tunnel at the end of the light

  1. You THREW OUT your old REEL? Didn’t even have it transferred? The Smithsonian will be pissed.

    For some reason I find your moving stories soothing in general. But I do get a pang when you show things that no sensible person would throw away — which is nearly everything you show pictures of. Like the bowls and teapots, which look like something out of MAD at Columbus Circle. And the nine foot dining table! My wife has literal tons of who-knows-what, while I have very few possessions, and this has gotten me smug and anti-materialistic, but it’s something to see someone purging who is really losing something of obvious value. I hope at the end you value the loss more than the load.

    • Ah, Roy! You feel my pain! The poor poor reel. No doubt I had it saved on DVD at some point. If not, well, I’m not looking for work any time soon.

      As for the other stuff, I wish I could share with your wife (!) Although you might not like being loaded down with even MAD -quality items. (I can’t help myself, when I see MAD I think “what, me worry?”) I do feel pangs of loss now and then. Like at 4:30 AM , which seems to be my new wake-up time, but as my wise Mom would say, “It’s only stuff.” But it is stuff I enjoyed. And, like my reel, every jettisoned piece has a story.

      • I know those 4:30 wake-ups aren’t entirely about the “stuff.” There are the stories you mentioned — fun for us to read when you write them out, but also the secret novel of your life. If only you could work in a conflict so an agent would rep it! Maybe one of your teapots contains a secret inscription…

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