Here's the way it works for me. First time through, I toss about a fourth of what I had in front of me--for about a half hour. Then, as I gain wisdom and lose time, the percentage doubles. I grow callouses. Soon enough, I'm tossing a half to three-quarters.
Half of what's left stays, and the other half gets a temporary pardon when I stick it on an empty shelf, like a display of goofiness or a mess of items from a fire sale. That half is iffy. You look, you stop, you think--maybe too much--and you stick it where you can put off a decision. You know--you just don't want to think about it.
Nostalgia is an emotion and therefore unreasonable. How is it we invest heart in some things--say this George Bush pin?--and not other stuff we have that's already bagged up and left on the street with the rest of the garbage? Where does wistfullness come from anyway?
Maybe that George Bush memory stays pinned to the shelf because I want to make perfectly clear to the world--and to my mother--that I'm independent. I voted for a Bush, twice-upon- a-time. What's more, that little pin stays because that Obama bobble-head won't get tossed either, a gift from my son, who hauled it back from his Hawaii honeymoon, and a counter punch to my son-in-law's Facebook photo that proudly features him in a cap with "Nobama" emblazoned across the forehead.
So does Bush.
Here's a pair of the world's ugliest sunglasses, bought in the Netherlands 15 years ago for a guilder, I think, at a street fair flea market. They're abominably ugly, horribly out of style (I think), and I've never worn them publicly, save in the Netherlands. By latest tally, I think I've got about a half dozen other pairs too, but, hey, I like 'em. They're so goofy, they're cool. I don't know that I'll ever wear 'em.
My granddaughter's artsy, half-drunk giraffe that's shaped more like a horse with peanut butter measles than Africa's giant wonder. But it's a sweet gift for her grandpa, and it's stood, more than a little tipsy, on my desktop computer for a couple of years, and she's in it somehow, right?
An ash tray. I think in my dotage I'm going to take up smoking. I don't want to live to be 108. Besides, I like smoking, always have. It was almost a religious thing with Native Americans, after all; and Lord knows, you can't buy ash trays anymore. It's a relic, an antique--maybe even worth something. The saint in me already tossed two others. Everybody needs a little sinner.
That baseball. Somehow, I ended up with it when my high school team won the Eastern Wisconsin championship game, summer, 1966. I played third base. Maybe some lame hitter from New Holstein popped up--I don't remember. All I know is I ended up with the game ball tucked in the pocket of my Rawlings, the very ball we were using when we won the whole shooting match. I'm the only person in the world who knows all of that, and without a doubt the only one who cares.
The Dutch flag. I didn't get that in the Black Hills.
There are other treasures aboard the shelves of my otherwise-empty basement bookcase, but I've learned this too: since we're renting, I can keep my emotions in tow by putting the flotsam and jetsam in a box, sealing it up, and then listing, roughly, its contents. In a year and a half, when we have to move again, if I haven't missed the silly stuff, what's in those boxes can simply be tossed. Like the sunglasses.
Well, not simply.
And I have a confession. There are more shelves.
Anybody need a little Dutch flag--one of those you hold in your hand and wave when the Queen passes on the street?