Saturday, March 24, 2007

Closet Blues

Last week my mother finally got to cleaning out the closet she once shared with my father. This was a momentous occasion for my siblings, primarily because it's been seven years since our Dad passed away. The notion of suddenly cleaning out an entire collection of gewgaws and knicknacks -- seven years after we should have done so -- somehow says a lot about my family's compulsion to hoard stuff.

If there was anyone who wasn't likely to see it as a momentous occasion of any sort, however, it was me. I was too busy laughing at the irony of the whole situation.

"What's funny?" my mother finally asked me.

"Eminem," I said.

"What's that?"

"You know..." I said, "Eminem. The American rap artist."

She shot me a dubious expression. Granted, mom wasn't exactly the kind of person who appreciated rap music of any sort.

"You know..." I said, and started rhyming:
I'm sorry, Mama
I never meant to hurt you
I never meant to make you cry
But tonight I'm cleanin' out my closet.
I would probably have gone into the rest of the song if it weren't for the fact that it's something that you don't do in front of your own mother. (It's much like saying mushy stuff to your girlfriend, come to think of it.) In any event, she didn't recognize the song regardless of my stellar impression.

"What kind of a song is that?" she asked.

"Er... ah... nothing, really."

"Is that really a song?"

I scratched my head. "Er... forget it, ma. Just forget it. Nevermind."

I get the feeling that she recognized the song over what little TV she watches, however, because two hours later I was the proud owner of a small plastic black comb and an eight-year-old can of shaving cream. "You might still be able to use them," my mother told me.

I glanced at the instructions written on the side of the can. Not only was the stuff eight years old and unopened... it also had a flammability warning written there in big white letters. A flammability warning on a can of shaving cream, for crying out loud.

"Isn't this kind of dangerous?" I asked her.

"It's just shaving cream. You never use shaving cream."

"It looks like it's going to explode any minute, ma." (That, mind you, was as far as I suspected. The canister resembled a time bomb so much that I could hear it ticking.)

Dubious look again. "It's not going to explode."

"It says that's it's flammable right on the side of the can! It's got a stern warning telling us that we shouldn't compact it in any way!"

"Yes, but it's not going to explode."

I ended up leaving the can for the sanitation workers to pick up, along with precise handwritten instructions against their doing anything to it. Lord knows that we could have done with far fewer requests for Christmas money in December, but I wasn't about to grant anyone the ignominy of being killed by an eight-year-old can of shaving cream.

And then there was the matter of the aftershave. It was Mom, who found it, of course... sitting inside an old, beat-up velvet-lined box that was probably used to hold expensive watches in its heyday.

"Old Spice," I said, reading the label. Dad was an avid fan of Old Spice, for some reason.

"You can use that too," she pointed out.

I scrutinized the vial. It was so old that the label had yellowed and peeled off in quite a few places. Moreover, it was obvious that the aftershave had hit the decade mark some time ago: the substance had actually eaten through some of the coating on the inside of the bottle.

"I can't use this," I said.

"You don't use aftershave. You should use aftershave."

"I can't use this," I told her again.

"Why not?"

"Because," I said, lifting the bottle up to the light, "I think it's alive."

Score one more item for the sanitation workers. I actually left a second message out for this one, explaining that it was a substance more fit to be sealed in lead-lined containers and buried twenty feet underground. That probably gave them a bit of pause before they just chucked it into the nearest landfill, I think.

Thankfully nothing else has come to light ever since. I think it has more to do with the fact that I made good my escape not long after the aftershave incident, though. I mean: There is a time to hang around and watch, and there is a time to just run like hell.

I still have the small plastic black comb, I think. It's the only thing I recovered from my Dad's lost stuff, and I decided to bring it with me to my new office and lock it away in a secure trolley.

For all I know, it's going to grow teeth and attack me one day. But then... that's why I double-locked it inside my office trolley, right? :)


Dominique said...

Oh. My. Goodness.




kat said...

Haha! The moment you mentioned Eminem, I started laughing too.

Why is it that when we find an unopened can of (whatever deo, perfume, etc), we presume it's still usable because it's still unopened? Well, my grandma and my mom think so. :p

Sean said...

Dominique: Just wait till the bling starts showing up. Peace, yo. :)

Kat: I think that it's part of a mentality that comes with hoarding stuff -- we keep things because they might prove useful in the future. When it finally dawns on us that these objects have reached the point where they have become absolutely, positively, incredibly useless, that mentality sticks in our minds and forces us to rethink the situation once again. It's nature's way of keeping our closets full. :)

Dominique said...

Or maybe proof that we're actually descended from rats.

Fo' shizzle!

Sean said...

Dominique: ...Thus the term "pack rats", I suppose. :)

philippe said...

hmmm... i don't know. i like your blog and all but i am a bit disturbed by this entry. maybe because i'm too sentimental that if i were to be handed some stuff my father used to have, i'd keep it.

Sean said...

Philippe: Well... we do keep more than a few mementos that aren't mentioned here. I still have my father's reading glasses, for one, despite the fact that they have little in the way of practical value. And then there's also a few trophies... a modest watch collection... some framed jigsaw puzzles... you'll have to take my word for it that we kept plenty of stuff that's not mentioned here.

I raise this now because there's got to be a limit as to what stuff you can keep and what stuff you have to let go. You can't keep everything, after all: Once you get past all the mementos and the keepsakes, you're bound to run into the handouts and the throwaways. I might be alone in this regard, yes... but seven years down the line, I'm far more likely to laugh at my family's "pack rat" tendencies than hold some sentimental value in a can of shaving cream. I'm fairly certain that my Dad would have looked at it the same way.

Sacha Chua said...

Sheer hilarity.

Sean said...

Sacha: And if you thought that this was bad, you should see my closet. :)