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Small Talk: Buried in ‘treasure’

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Anyone’s trash is my daughter’s treasure. All I can say is, it doesn’t come from my side of the gene pool.

Too quick to blame? Am I? Let me just say that no car of ours has ever seen the inside of a garage. Let me add that you cannot walk a straight line through my husband’s home office.

Let me introduce Exhibit C, my husband’s car. He rarely ferried children anywhere because his back seat was filled with stuff. Jackets, hats, maps, books, newspapers, tools. I didn’t dig below the first layer. I was afraid I’d lose a finger to something that had made its home there.

After decades of marriage, I have given up the fight. I might have held strong but I had children. One of them snatched up every strand of pack-rat DNA. The other one is a boy. Now I’m basically outnumbered.

If you want my daughter’s eyes to absolutely shine, give her $3 and point her toward a garage sale. My worst memory is when the garage sale was right across the street, and by the time we got over there, everything had been marked free for the taking.

If my then-12-year-old could have backed up a truck, she would have done it in a New York minute. As it was, she nearly came to blows with another woman who was matching her grab for grab. My sweet, generally shy child started stuffing boxes like she hadn’t a toy to her name.

Within 10 minutes, you could no longer find my living room floor. You could find a slot-car set with no cars, several sheets of leftover tile, an old dish drainer, a dirty rug, a broken basket made of pine cones sprayed gold, a really swell plastic Halloween bowl, half a travel game, a red tulle dress that might actually add to our costume box and a miniature spa that squirted water all over.

There was more, but those are the highlights. When asked to pick up her newly acquired pile of stuff and find a place to put it all, she turned to me without the smallest twinge of conscience and said, “But there’s no room left in my bedroom.”

The space in the playroom attic and beneath her bed is filled with brimming Rubbermaid containers. Her closet floor is covered with plastic baskets, also brimming with every cheap party favor ever given her, every comic book, 100 dried-up marker pens, one-eyed stuffed animals and assorted game pieces.

I have quit hoping to win the lottery. I just want the “Antiques Roadshow” to roll through town. Something in that tacky pile must be worth something. But I know, with the words “No, don’t throw that out!” ringing in my ears, the item that would have caught us a spot on that show and an appraisal in the thousands was that one absolutely hideous, useless thing I gave to the thrift shop, just last week.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer still cornered by clutter. Contact her at [email protected].

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