Lost Treasures -
August 22, 2002
David finds that he no longer has much use for his skis, skates and leather briefcase.
We're writing this log entry in Canada. Our sailboat, Little Gidding, is on the hard in Virginia, probably feeling quite lonely and dejected. We've temporarily escaped the boatyard to visit "home". This is a (more or less) annual occurrence aimed at reassuring doubting friends and relatives that we haven't fallen off the edge of the earth. The only problem is that "home" is spread out. As land dwellers, we last lived in Toronto, where a good number of our friends still reside. Eileen's family, however, is mainly based in Ottawa, and David's family is on the West coast. We've tried encouraging our relatives to all relocate somewhere in the middle of the continent for our convenience, but so far they've resisted this notion. Consequently, our visits home typically take the form of a frantic cross-county tour.
Before we left Toronto eight years ago, we lived in a smallish one-bedroom apartment. In fact, we had been downsizing our living arrangements over the previous years in anticipation of living full time on our boat. Each time we moved into a smaller apartment, we put aside more money for the cruising kitty and got rid of more stuff. When we made the final move to the boat, we didn't have many personal belongings left. We sold our remaining furniture, gave a bunch of things to local charities, and moved everything else into the basement of Eileen's older sister's suburban home. Fortunately, Maureen, Eileen's sister, had a large basement. We cast off the docklines and promptly forgot about the stuff we had stashed away.
Last spring, we received an e-mail from Maureen saying she and her husband John had decided to move. Only one of their four kids was still living at home, and he's due to graduate from high school next year. They wanted a smaller house with less upkeep. We thought this was very inconsiderate of them. "What about our stuff?" we implored. Maureen gently reminded us in her next e-mail that our things had been collecting dust in her basement for so long that they now resembled the detritus from some lost civilization. She'd find a place for them until our summer visit, but after that, they had to go. This announcement spurred a series of panicked e-mails and phone calls to other family members.
We soon discovered that we were related to a bunch of pack rats. Everyone we called had lots of stuff of their own and not enough space. No one jumped at the opportunity to become keepers of our treasured belongings. Finally, Eileen's older brother, Mike, relented and said he'd temporarily keep our stuff in his garage. He thought he could maybe squeeze a couple of trunks filled with our most valued possessions into his basement for longer term storage. But this still meant reducing the volume of everything we owned by half. How would we ever manage to part with that much important stuff?
In desperation, we checked out some commercial storage outfits. We found that the monthly rate for a small storage locker was pretty close to what we had last paid to rent an apartment. Suddenly our stuff didn't seem to be nearly as important. When we drove over to Mike's place a few days ago we were prepared to be ruthless. Mike's wife, Nancy, opened the garage door and there before us lay all our worldly possessions. It's amazing what eight years of life on a boat does to your perspective. We looked at the sad pile of odds and ends and shook our heads. What were we thinking when we saved all those things?
David picked up a handful of ties. "I don't think I remember how to knot one of these things," he said. He marvelled at how impractical his leather briefcase now seemed. "Back packs are much better for carrying stuff." Eileen opened some journals dating back to her high school days. "They're awful," she cried, quickly closing them. "And I thought everything I wrote back then was so profound!" And then there were the snow skis and ice skates. Not too useful in the tropics.
In no time at all we had triaged the lot into a pile for the trash bin, a pile for a local charity, and a pile to keep. The keepers were mostly old photos, some jewellery and a few family heirlooms, like the wine glasses from the saloon that David's great-grandmother owned during the Klondike gold rush. To our surprise, the "good" stuff didn't quite fill our two trunks. When he thought Eileen wasn't looking, David threw in his goose down parka and a pair of hand-knitted wool mittens. "They'll be good padding for the fragile items," he sheepishly explained.
We dragged the trunks down the basement stairs and pushed them into a corner. As Eileen closed the door, David said, "Give us another eight years and I bet we'll get it down to only one trunk."
Cheers, David & Eileen