Late-Bloomer Grinch

12/29/2011 2:17 PM

12/29/2011 2:17 PM


A furry green index finger and furry green thumb pluck a morsel from the ground, a crumb too small for a mouse, leaving behind utter desolation. A quiet wind blows.

It might be after Christmas, but a Grinch-like muse has taken us captive for severe organization. Not to steal away the fire trucks, dolls, trains and pony paraphernalia, but simply this: to corral and tame the beast of unmatched parts.


There are so many. Puzzle pieces, Legos — large and small and teensy — the little figurines that inhabit the drivers’ seats of fire trucks and tug boats, the broken flotsam of Happy Meal toys, fractured crayons and pieces of chalk, Halloween candy, wheels of various genres, abandoned plastics from 2008 that just want to decompose in peace, and blocks. Oh, the blocks.

When I was a tween of about 11, my mother bought me my first can of Clearasil. I had been performing in a show in which my entire face was covered in bright red stage makeup for weeks on end. I was playing an ant, as in, an insect who sings and dances, and singing/dancing ants apparently wear bright red stage makeup. Obviously, I broke out. Big time. Thrilled with the knowledge that I was more teen and less ween, and sobered by the reality of owning, and needing to use, an actual FACE WASH to clear up my ever-so-mature case of ACNE, I cleared the top of my dresser to make way for its new ornament: the blue and white emblem of skin clarity. Move over, Lipsmackers.

A maniacal rage for Stuff Management consumed me. I went on a tear, cleaning out my bathroom drawer of all unnecessary hair barrettes, Tinker Bell nail polish, Barbie combs, Bath and Body Works Country Apple Body Spray (Ok, that got moved to the cabinet underneath), and mirrors from various play makeup sets. I wiped the counter top with a wet washcloth and gently placed my Clearasil in the center, right in front of the mirror. It stood alone. A new era of Stuff had been born, and little did I know I was only one month away from owning my very first stick of Teen Spirit. Nothing could have thrilled me more.

Not since that day 20 years ago have I felt so righteous as I did this past Sunday, a mere 27 hours after the Christmas maelstrom. The urge began quiet-like, and then rose unexpectedly like a tidal wave on a bright day, rolling over my lungs like champagne, dizzying up my head and pounding my heart. A place for everything, and everything in its place, a place for everything, and everything in its place…

Gordon observed me for about an hour, peeking around corners at my unwashed, still pajama-ed form, and then finally decided that this was, in fact, happening, and joined me with orgasmic fervor. Batteries into dead trucks, baby trucks into storage, re-assembly of broken trucks. It was a Mini Monster Truck rally, minus the felons.

When The Things woke up from their nap, they barely recognized the objects in the toy closet. It was Christmas The Sequel as Drew fixated on his newly refurbished Farm Tractor that could now crank down the hallway with every single animal in tact. He spent the rest of the afternoon playing not with his $300 Christmas train table, but with this, a gift he received at his first birthday. And then, of course, he played with Madeline’s stuff. Not knowing the difference or caring too much about her doll stroller, she shrugged, threw her newest baby over her back, and left the room unceremoniously.

Her time will come. Oh yes, it will come.

I filled two garbage bags full of broken, useless Stuff. I had to make sure I didn’t get too far into the depths of toy bulimia but soon found that as I elevated the still-good Stuff to every appointed place, that there was more joy here than in giving all the new Stuff Christmas morning. There is just something so Genesis about this whole sorting phenomenon, to feel like I’ve finally subdued something. I can breathe a little deeper and a little slower and start to give names to the things around me.

Now if only my children could be placed on shelves in labeled Tupperware…

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