Retire Mechanical engineer. Student at California State university Channel Island studiyingAbout Me

July 27, 2015

The Nomad and the Keeper

After a small wedding ceremony at Hidden Creek Country Club near Navarre, Florida, my new bride and I were flying to St. Thomas for our week-long honeymoon.

I packed a toothbrush and my shaving essentials, along with a few other items including bathing trunks and T-shirts, all of which fit neatly in my small roll-aboard.

I had planned on wearing my blue jeans and my good shirt on the flight, thinking they would get me nicely through the week.

My new bride had other ideas.

"Sweetheart? Where is your luggage?"

I silently pointed to my roll-aboard.

"You're kidding! We're going to be there for a week! That's all you're taking?” she asked, shaking her head.

"That's it."

"But that can't be! I'll go to the mall and shop for some resort wear."

"But I don't need any resort wear."

"Sweetheart, yes you do and we can't stop at your apartment in Atlanta because we only have an hour to catch the flight to St. Thomas."

"Well, I wasn't planning to."

My new wife had, in fact, packed more than enough of her own clothing for the duration of our seven-day stay, including four summer dresses, an evening gown, three pair of blue jeans, several T-shirts, two different casual outfits, three beach dresses with hats to match, flip-flops, walking shoes and high heels.

In addition, she had two small bags with makeup and other beauty products and another bag with Alka-Seltzer and health items in case we got sick.

I don't know about you, but I consider myself more on the practical side. Is it perhaps because of my Nomad ancestry?

My forefathers came from Central Asia where they traveled with their sheep, goats and horses, and strapped all their worldly goods on their backs. They would stop and set up their tents and graze their animals in no man's land, not needing or wanting for anything.

During our many years of marriage, I have come to the conclusion that most of us have become slaves to our possessions, including my wife.

A good example of this is my wife's insistence on keeping a wood desk from her childhood. We've carried it all around the country as we've moved from place to place. And why? Purely sentimental reasons. Her father built it for her when she was five. Really!

And how about three sets of china? Okay, I know china dishes are expensive. But what about all her clothes? Why such a huge wardrobe? Outfits from high school, prom dresses, college clothes and work clothes (even though she is now retired), all packed neatly in cardboard boxes which move with us from home to home.

I have tried to convince my wife that if she hasn't worn a piece of clothing in the last year or two, then the chances are she probably won't ever wear it again. It hasn't been easy to change her mind and convince her to detach herself from excessive material things.

My stepdaughter, now a wife and mother of two small boys, has inherited some of that same 'keeper' personality. In fact, she recently admitted she stresses over packing for trips, always taking more than she knows she will need, just to avoid the feeling of not having the right outfit to wear when the occasion arises.

I am certain about one thing. If my stepdaughter, who is the essence of the smart, lovely, young American woman, feels this way, then I can assuredly say, so goes the rest.

Why? What has changed in our society that we have become addicted to accumulating worldly goods?

I once dated a girl whose mother collected grocery store carts full of clothing and other junk, storing it in the basement of their house.

I have a friend who collects books and magazines; doesn't read them, just collects them. His bookshelves are so full that one day one collapsed and fell on his brother. Luckily, the young man came away with only scrapes and bruises.

My friend runs his business the same way. Entering the warehouse where he manufactures metal items, one has to slide sideways to get in. When I tried to tell him that he could have issues with safety, did he listen?

And my mother-in-law?

Bless her heart; she lived alone in her little cottage in the Florida Panhandle after losing her husband. Whenever my wife and I visited her, I would clean the gutters and do other household repairs. My wife would go through the closets and cabinets, piling up unneeded items to donate.

Cleaning out the garage was a task we both worked on, not only to reduce clutter but also to make room to park the large Buick my mother-in-law drove. Inevitably the next time we came to visit, we would see the same items and more accumulated in the small space.

My own Turkish mother is no different.

Whenever she went grocery shopping, she kept the plastic bags from her trip, all neatly folded and packed away. My sister became so annoyed with her that she finally told Mother the bags contained germs. That quickly put an end to the collecting.

But, then again, how can I blame our parents for all their hoarding when they lived through the Great Depression and had to make do with so little?  I think my wife is starting to come around to my way of thinking.

As I sit at my desk writing all this down, I am watching with pure enjoyment and pride as my wife has started methodically going through everything in the house. There are piles of clothes, including several of my barely-worn suits from college stacked one on top of another.

I admit I am a keeper of sorts too.

I am afraid to complain because she is donating my favorite handmade suits. Not only the clothing, but some of my workout equipment, books and hiking gear. I keep asking myself if I really need them.

Maybe, just maybe, I will secretly buy my favorite suit back from the Salvation Army.