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to buy, keep, store... and give away
life in the archives
Years ago, and maybe it’s still like this, there was a section in Harper’s Bazaar called Buy. Keep. Store. It was in regards to trends; what’s in and what’s out what’s still wearable…
-You’ll want to update your closet by buying these square-toed-shoes.
-You can still wear chokers.
- Go ahead and store those JNCO cargo pants.
Nowhere did it ever say, “you don’t wear this anymore? Give that shit awwwaaaayyyyyyy.”
Instead, it came with an assumption that we all had unlimited closet space in which to store of our “expired” looks.
I took that shit seriously and did as I was told. (Which is why I was able to gift my 14 year old all of my early 00s Betsey Johnson. It’s also why I have yet to get rid of any of my dead husband’s clothes in the five years since he’s died.)
I have always thought about the relationship between keeping, buying and storing, as it applies to us emotionally. What am I keeping, buying and storing this season? And what does that look like — not with fashion, but with memory, experience, love…
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I am deep in the throes of anticipatory grief. A feeling not unfamiliar to me, but nonetheless all its own.
All the lasts are happening simultaneously.
Last week I panicked when I realized I had not volunteered to chaperone my twins final elementary school field trip. I ended up showing up, anyway. An hour late to the museum, like, HI I’M HERE. I’m here.
I don’t want to miss anything, never have, but lately it’s been impossible not to. Choosing between final performances. Missing games for orientations. Going back and forth between classrooms. Between schools. Facetiming from my car. I’m there even though I’m here, I swear.
I stopped subscribing to Bazaar years ago and have become much better at parting with things I love but only because I have forced myself to be. Even still, I have always been sort of obsessed with those three words in relationship to each other. The interconnectedness of accumulation and what to do with so the emotional weight of so many experiences that multiply over time.
Last week, feeling the weight of her own timeline, Revie decided she wanted to write every single one of her elementary school teachers a thank you note starting with TK. She asked me if I would send her photos from the first day/weeks of school starting in August of 2016, when she started Transitional Kindergarten (TK) at the elementary school she has spent the last seven years at. So, with her beside me, I searched through hundreds, if not thousands of photos taken between 2016 and now. And sent them to her so that she could make a yearly collage for each class.
I hadn’t seen most of these pictures since I first took them. Had no reason to search specifically for first days of school. Came across many pictures of moments I had forgotten. Backpacks I don’t remember buying. Cowboy boots I forgot we even had.
The end of the year is always nostalgic but this one feels paralyzing. The piles of paperwork for new schools. Four graduations — all within the span of ten days. There are dresses that must be purchased and tickets that must be reserved and housing forms that need to signed and immunization records, electives to select, orientations and registrations and final performances on stages I have watched my kids perform from for the last thirteen years. This weekend Archer will perform his final high school performance. And Fable, who will be a freshman at the same school in the fall, will watch from an audience she will be performing for next year.
I don’t have it in me to look back right now. And yet. I can’t not. I am forced to attend a new slideshow seemingly every day. An infinite supply of endings. Of baby’s last _____. The closed circles becoming holes for me to fall into. Over and over. With no sign of stopping before September.
I have always felt that certain seasons belong inside the archives while in other seasons we belong in them. By that I mean, one tends to bounce between the active nature of living on full blast and meditating on what that means. We need respite between days, sleep in the night.
But this moment feels like a collision of both passive and active nostalgia. The last few months and the ones to come are like Summer in the northern hemisphere when the sun is always up. Everything is everything all the time. Anticipation is a full-time job and still I must keep working. Can’t afford not to.
There is no calm before the storm.
Nostalgia can be really beautiful when we have the emotional capacity to sit down and remember. But what about the times when we don’t? What about the times that are so fertile with activity — with change? How does one trace her finger over the memories when her hands are already full.
I have been trying for months to put into words what this moment feels like — the emotional landmines that are only manageable through paralysis. Like making eye contact with a predator in the woods. I just stare into the eyes of these babies and all the memories of barefoot dancing in the backyard… and back away slowly.
It’s as if I’m playing back the last eighteen years… over the last fourteen. Over the last eleven. Over the last five. All while holding my heart together with one hand. Trying not to look back in a mirrored room.
It feels as though I’m buying, keeping, storing all once while ALSO giving it all away.
When Hal died, my heart felt like it was being pulled in two different directions which is not unlike the feeling I have now. The paralyzing confusion of a complicated grief. The wanting of one thing that contradicts the other thing. The exhaustion of pushing opposing feelings toward each other knowing there is no other way to move forward.
Like standing between the poles of two repelling magnets.
Anticipatory grief is an earthquake during a hurricane flanked by wildfire. It is preparing for a birth and planning for a funeral in the same moment. Signing every kind of certificate with the same pen.
It is the mixing and then re-mixing of metaphors to try to set a definition for something that cannot — and will not be — defined.
And it isn’t just for Archer who is leaving. It’s for my girls, too. Moving out of their own childhoods, pushing deeper into adolescence. The smell of metal once a month. The theatrics of coming of age. Not just for them but for me, too. I’m going to be 42 in a few weeks but in so many ways, I never grew out of being a teenage girl. And yet, somehow, I have daughters now who are old enough to borrow my clothes. Somehow, I raised an adult man who takes his sister to her volleyball games and roots her on from the sidelines when I can’t be there. Drives her home in the same minivan her dad and I brought her home from the hospital in. Gasses her up with so much love.
Somehow, I come home at night to two teenagers playing their dad’s guitars. Harmonizing. And it’s real. It’s happening. But not forever and that not forever part is all consuming. Right now it’s all consuming.
And yet. Desperately, I want him to go. I want them all to go. To become. To be excited about their futures. I want to push them forward but also, I have to fight myself to keep from holding on.
Contradiction as torture device.
The most crowded kind of loneliness.
There is so much to buy and only so much in the bank. There is so much to keep and only so much I can wear. There is so much to store and only so much room in the closet.
Which is why I must learn to part with some of it.
Buy. Keep. Store.
Yes, but also…
But there is no magazine to tell me how.
Only archival footage flooding the feed.
“Here, Rev. I found a few more pictures from your first day of school…”