Charles: Put away the stuffing, time for more stuff

It’s Thanksgiving Day, but I’m not going to bore you with a sappy list of all the things I’m thankful for. Although I am eternally grateful for my beautiful extended family, blood relatives and in-laws, a husband who likes me well enough to pretend he still finds me attractive, and a lovely daughter whom I actually believe hung the moon (this after all of us surviving the dark years known as adolescence).

No, this isn’t about stuffing — this is about stuff.

Because in less than 24 hours the mad rush begins to acquire more of it.

I’m not sure when Black Friday became a national holiday, but apparently it is, because the calendar on my phone has a little dot notating it. Huh?

Now, I’m not going to lie. I hate shopping.

I don’t need more stuff. I already have plenty of stuff I can’t, or won’t, get rid of. I don’t mind shopping for other people when the occasions arise. In fact, I like being generous.

But I get attached to the stuff other generous people give me — because I get attached to them.

I have kept clothes that no longer fit, or were out of style, for way too long because, someone I loved gave them to me. That person didn’t have to die, or anything. But having stuff makes me think of them. (If I ever call you out of the blue or hunt you down on Facebook, know that it was because I came upon something you gifted me centuries ago, and I’m thinking of you fondly.)

Our home is a photo shrine to every member of our families and many of my friends. I have infant pictures of nieces and nephews who have children older than those newborn shots. If you sent me a baby picture 30 years ago, it’s probably still displayed on a knick-knack shelf here somewhere.

I’ve watched enough of those Hoarders shows to know that I’m not that far gone — yet. I don’t collect weird things and delude myself into thinking they are investments. I have one baseball card a former colleague gave me when I asked if he had heard of a player I knew. The former major leaguer was a college baseball coach in a town where I used to live. I still have that card. Some day it might be worth something, but for me it’s a gift from someone I like and respect.

But that’s kind of my problem (at least one of them). I think highly of many people and when they give me stuff, even small stuff, I think of how they took the time to think of me. Surely I owe it to them to keep it forever (self-involved much?).

My late father-in-law used to give me some of the ugliest little clown statues, weird little dolls, and other oddities, and I would display them on a shelf in our living room. Dad’s been gone almost four years now, and some of that ugly stuff is still here. It makes me think of him and smile. I think, like him, I have interesting (read: no) taste.

Every great once in a while, I try to purge some of the stuff I’ve been given over the years. I have way too many perfume gift sets (the kind you’ll see everywhere and buy them all up the day before Christmas) photo albums with no photos in them — because who has time? — empty journals for when we can sit and contemplate and “journal” at the end of a long day (yeah, right). But then I remember when a friend made me something from her first pottery class and presented it to me proudly as a housewarming gift. So I can’t get rid of that. The thousands of beads that I used to decorate my daughter’s hair with are still here. I will still have them at the ready, no doubt, when she has a daughter of her own 10 or 20 years from now.

And let’s not forget the cache of toys. It’s not just the expense; we’ve more than gotten our money’s worth from the Guitar Hero instruments. I would gladly give those away if someone wants to take them. But the dancing doll I bought her as a reward during those potty training days? I need to hold onto that, although I have no idea where the remote to turn it on is.

And this is why Black Friday frightens me. There is just way too much stuff to add on to all the stuff that won’t find its way to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or anyplace else that could really find some use for this stuff. (What do you mean, try the trash?)

I like giving people stuff. But if I’m emotionally attached to you, the stuff you give me may live on long after you’ve forgotten about it. I kept the record player my sister bought me as a high school graduation present for 15 years, and cried when I told her I had to finally get rid of it because I could no longer find phonograph needles for it. Her reply: You still have that?

Good luck today, the beginning of accumulating more stuff. And when I tell you please don’t get me anything, know that I mean it. Save me from myself (and all my stuff).

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