In Grapes of Wrath, I have a scene where I sit around the fire in the first act. I’m getting rid of some things I don’t want to pack on the truck. There isn’t room for my washtub, so there isn’t room for sentimentality or mementos. I’m supposed to have a small box, probably an old cigar box or something, with papers inside and a pair of earrings.
I take the earrings, but I trash the rest. Throw it on the fire.
I made myself some papers to look at this morning. Stuff to burn. Stuff that has emotion in it. Stuff to stuff in that box. I can’t be sentimental about fake pictures, so I put my own pictures in a small box.
It’s hard for Ma to toss out the scraps of her life. This is the first time she’s confronted with leaving everything behind. I remember leaving everything behind 4 years ago.
Up until 4 years ago, I had to let go of very little. My mom stored some small stuff for me, but I had been carting around all my belongings, accumulating more and more stuff every place I went after I got married.
We took much, but we left much, 4 years ago.
4 years ago, I had a house. 4 years ago, I had medical debt. 4 years ago, I had cancer and didn’t know it. 4 years ago, I had hope that by leaving everything I had built, by walking away from crippling debt, I would know peace. At the very least.
I was right.
4 years ago, we had a small house in Kansas City. We were trying to make payments on the house, trying to fix ‘er up, trying to remodel and repair an aging older home. Gas was $4 a gallon. I was so sick, I couldn’t hold down a job. I was mentally and physically ill.
I had heart failure, undiagnosed thyroid cancer, failing gallbladder and out-of-control obesity. Of course I couldn’t work. I also had undiagnosed complex PTSD. Some days, I remember, it’s a miracle I’m still here. That I didn’t kill myself with food or by some other means.
When we realized that we would never pay off my medical debt, that we were sinking in a hole of a house, we quit paying on the house and filed bankruptcy. It was the hardest thing to walk away from debt and our house. I felt like a failure. A worthless piece of shit who deserved to go to jail for failing at adulthood.
I just thank God that our country offers a second chance. That you don’t go to prison for being irresponsible financially. (If that were true, our president would be in jail. LOL) Even Walt Disney claimed bankruptcy. KC represent! (He’s a KC boy, originally.)
There was so much pain. Guilt. Shame. But, at the end, relief. I could sleep again at night.
Bankruptcy is one of those things you never want to go through twice. For me anyway. I never want to go through the hassle or terror again. Stay out of debt. If you can. If your organs don’t fail. Also, keep insurance! (America’s medical safety net should not be bankruptcy.)
When we filed bankruptcy, we planned to move before they made us move. We started furiously working toward the goal of downsizing our entire house. I had a basement and a garage full of shit. Hand-me-downs. Arts and crafts. Tables. Chairs. Bookcases. Books. Thrift store finds. Theatre costumes. Bullshit. I had to start letting go of all those projects I told myself I’d do. I even had a friggin’ old, dusty upright piano. What was I thinking?
What I really wanted to do was start a house fire. Burn it to the ground. Emerge from the smoking hull. Start completely over. But I’m not a law breaker. So, we worked. For hours. With one vision in mind. Think of how nice it will be when this is all over. We will be free of these things. We won’t be slaves to objects. And we wanted to move to an apartment with a pool! Having a pool goal is a good motivator.
Plus, we had a huge garage sale. Sold a bunch on Craigslist. Made some fat stacks of cash. That was also a good motivator. I became quite a Craigslist savant. Never murdered! Woot!
One of the last days at our house, we had a bonfire. We had some folks over and had some food. We sat in our backyard to use it for the last time with friends. Something we rarely did and said we always wanted to do. It was a fun day. We bought hay bales for seats. We made burgers and dogs. We made a huge fire pit out of a decorative well. We cut the top of the well off (the roof and bucket) and used the brick oval base to make a fire pit. Done.
Threw old lumber, sticks and as many pieces of wood we could find (we had alot of scrap wood for some reason, we were hoarders, I guess) on the fire and lit the whole thing at once. Whoosh! It was a fireball. It was pretty cool.
We had just mowed the day before for company and the yard was full of dried grass clippings. We had an acre of land and plenty of dried grass. The kids at the party went around picking up the dried grass and throwing it on the fire. They had a blast. And the yard looked pretty nice, too. New party game. LOL
It was nice to use the yard finally. To enjoy the day. But it was far too late. Made me want to stay. But we would have never had the party if we weren’t going away. Such is life. Things are the sweetest, love is fiercest, when the end is near. Just enjoy it. Just do it before it’s too late.
When I do the scene as Ma, I’ve been around that fire before. I’ve left behind some precious things to come to where I am. But they are just things. I saved the best or most important parts from the fire. OR
Everything gets burnt. But the best things come out of the fire still intact. Refined. Like me.