when i was about 12 years old, i went to live with my dad. it was a fairly typical thing for an adolescent girl to do; tension with mother had reached a breaking point, the hateful stepfather, extra hateful. i’d had enough of the tyrrany and was looking forward to some freedom and peace.

it turns out, i was looking in the wrong place, but that is not the point in this particular narrative. what is the point, is that when i arrived on my father’s doorstep, i owned exactly one pair of shoes. they had serious holes in them. i would stand out in the rain and my feet would get wet. i was accustomed to this, but not inured. i told my dad i needed some money for a new pair of shoes. after some struggle, i got the shoes. and then, something strange happened; i got another pair of shoes.

this was unprecedented. i had always just had one pair at a time. it was heady and strange to be able to decide which shoes i was going to wear that day. i remember sitting in my room feeling giddy at the prospect. and it didn’t stop there. unlike my mother who harbors a profound disdain for the acquisition of things, my dad, he comes from stuff-likers. so. suddenly, i had stuff. items were given to me and neither rescinded nor destroyed. as such, i was able to amass a selection of things. and though i knew intellectually i was going to be able to keep these things, i became rather attached to the notion of having stuff, keeping that stuff, and getting new stuff to join it.

and in this way, i am still pretty much 12 years old.

never is this more apparent than when i cleaning. my god, i have a lot of stuff. stuff from when i was in middle school. stuff from my marriage. stuff from i have no idea where. even when i have nowhere to put it, and i am oppressed by it, i am very very reluctant to let it go. and of course, i still want more stuff too…

and what’s more, now hodie has a lot of stuff. toys, games, clothes, electronics, art supplies, books, costumes, gee-gaws, etc etc ad infinitum. as we were sorting through her room in the annual “pre-first-day-of-school-clean-and-purge” i was stunned by the quantity of crap my daughter has managed to collect. and most of this is my fault. i have definitely trained her to hold on to things; or more precisely i have encouraged her to hold on to things she would pretty much be perfectly happy to let go of. for you see, unlike her mother, she does not have deprivation consciousness, because for the most part, she has been deprived of nothing.

and so today. as we were cleaning her room, i did something i have never done before. i told her she could get rid of whatever she liked. she was not obligated to consult me about what to keep and what to be rid of. she could send off whatever struck her fancy. i didnt encourage her to to keep anything she did not want for her own purposes, and i let go the need to dictate where the things that were left ought to go. as long as everything had a place, i wasnt going to try to insist on placement or particulars; just that things were relatively tidy after all was said and done.

she was judicious for the most part. lots of books from when she was 2, stuffies she hadn’t even looked at in months, gifts from people years out of her life. she arranged her remaining things in a riot across all the flat surfaces of her room in a way that makes my fingers itch with organizational longing, but i resisted and praised her diligence.

i am happy to say that hodie does not seem to care nearly as much as i do about stuff. that she’s generally pretty happy to have it, but that it doesnt seem to be something she gives all that much thought to. and in this way, i like to think i have done a good job. the shrug of her shoulders, in the face of all those things, my best reward. even better than stuff.