by Walter Brasch
American Reporter Correspondent
June 18, 2009
TWELVE ANGRY WHITE PEOPLE: JURY NULLIFICATION IN A PENNSYLVANIA COAL TOWN
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- It's been over 50 years since I wore the exquisitely fashioned fur scarf made of three Stone Marten skins attached to each other, flashing those beady glass brown eyes as the wearer shrugged her shoulders to adjust the draping. But, I have them. They're wrapped in tissue and placed in plastic, always ready for the style to come back.
I wasn't sure about the spelling of "marten" so I looked it up. Along with the spelling, I got a full definition: stone martens are little animals in the weasel family often called a sable by furriers. That rather takes the glamour out of it, doesn't it?
What was once a fashion of conceit is now something just a hair above an ordinary scurrying squirrel. Yes, these skins will be the first to go now that my mind is set upon downsizing, minimalizing, giving away and just plain pitching out my past life as a pack rat. I must get out from under. Under what, you might ask?
Well, under the bed for one. If you were to reach under the dark green dust ruffle and pull out the zippered plastic bag originally meant to hold the comforter off-season, you would find all the newspapers we had saved from the day John F. Kennedy was shot through the events of the weeks following. In a front page photograph Lee Harvey Oswald reacting with a tell-tale grimace tells readers that Jack Ruby's hand holding a pistol meant one thing: he fired a bullet and it met its mark.
Those papers are not the only ones in our cache: Robert F. Kennedy's death-watch after being felled by a bullet in California In 1980, the eruption of Mount St. Helens, a stratovolcano located in Washington state, was a major volcanic eruption and the front pages showed people as far away as New York City wearing masks to avoid the dust airborne and windblown into the city streets; Baby Jessica McClure rescued from the depths of the well. We've been selective; not every major story captured our full attention but when they did we liked having the "news of the day."
As I play my game of pitch and toss I realize that in the last 50 years it is no longer necessary to save things for posterity. I should have learned about saving old newspapers from my brother, Bill. He was a dozen years older than I and a Civil War buff. As a little boy in New York, he befriended the last couple of Civil War veterans who would march in an Armistice Day parade every year. He'd march alongside them and one of them gave him a box full of Matthew Brady glass slides along with a box of newspapers published during the war.
These slides were loaned to a friend, never returned, and the papers were finally used to start a roaring fire in the furnace on cold days. He mourned the loss but I realize - what he did not live long enough to realize - that in about five minutes tops I can reproduce on the screen in front of me all he lost.
And so it is with what is under my bed. With the exception of personal letters discussing family events or pictures of family and homes and friends and neighbors - nothing is irreplaceable. Albums and scrapbooks are all that we need. Memories of us. Us, as in those of us who are not immortalized on the World Wide Web and are known only to each other and our widening circle.
One plastic bag under a bed does not an uncluttered house make. Clothes go to Good Will. But even with clothes, if I think it might come back in style I look at it twice. That second look takes less and less time, however, when I realize the top might come back but the length won't. Fashion designers would be out of business if they didn't allow 60 years between comebacks.
Men's clothes look changeless but have you noticed one year, cuffs, next year, no cuffs; double breasted or single breasted jacket; two-button or three and designers believe they are innovative. But a suit is an investment for a man and even considering letting them go is like tossing out money - and, after all, what's a closet for if not to fill every rack?
Books, now, are another thing. They can look shiny and new and the kind I might sell on Amazon.com but if the title reads: 10 Best Stocks to Buy This Year, and the year referred to was 1991, well, out it goes.
I have the time and intelligence now to do all this divesting because I hear more and more about the baby boomers finding themselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
The boomers were born between 1945 and 1964. I'm a decade older and my children, for the most part, are a decade younger. It won't be long before they might feel like what boomers describe as an Oreo cookie, themselves being creamy soft in the middle while the top cookie (parents) and the bottom cookie, (their children) are squeezing them from each side.
It's a good idea to cut down on "stuff" the children might not want to part with because of sentimental value. As I've learned, there's not much sentiment connected to sentimental value. As an example of what constitutes sentimental value never to be discarded is a white envelope.
It's between the pages of my mother's favorite poetry book. In it is a Kleenex tissue and my brother Paul's writing on the outside of the envelope. "Kleenex used to blot Mama's forehead as she was breathing her last breath." It is sad, it is precious, it is filled with not only her essence but with his unbounded grief as she left him, by her side, and the rest of us cry from a distance. I just can't discard this but who will keep it? Who would even understand? A Kleenex?
Pictures are coming off my walls here and there and being sent to our children. There will be no squabbling after we are beyond the = decision-making stage since now no one wants to talk about it, assuming - as they do - we'll be here forever. Well then, we'll handle it now.
Of course. I write "we'll handle it" loosely. John won't part with a thing. Everything means something to him. So, please, shhhhh, he hasn't noticed yet but about 300 pounds of what he won't part with has, shall we say, departed.