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One man’s junk is one woman’s precious memories

Submitted by on Friday, 29 May 2009 No Comment

coffee_mugsI can’t explain why it started, but I can say exactly when it began.

It was on a trip to Phoenix while I was in college – my first venture west of the Mississippi. I wanted something to mark the occasion, and I picked a coffee mug and T-shirt. Both with shades of turquoise, of course.

From there, it became a near obsession. Everywhere I went, I returned with a mug and a shirt. A camouflage mug and a Mannheim hoody when my brother was in the Army. A Mickey Mouse cup and Bugs and Tux in Orlando Magic uniforms on a shirt when my sister was in the Navy.

I rationalized the practicality: I drink a lot of coffee and love overly casual clothing, so what could be more utilitarian?

Twenty-four years down the road, what could be a bigger space hog, as my crammed cabinets and bulging dressers attest.

I’ve pared the stock some over the years, keeping only the ones with the best memories of people, times and places. I’m going to have to pare more as we get ready to move this summer, and those cuts are going to be the hardest.

Silly, I know, this emotional attachment to mugs and shirts. Dad doesn’t get it at all, but neither do I understand why he won’t loosen his death grip on a 1970s Polaroid camera.

And even before the realization hit that I have to de-junk before we move, I wondered about the statute of limitations on some items.

The shirt proclaiming the University of Kentucky as the 1998 NCAA champion, for example.

It entered my life after I shrieked, loudly and frequently, during the tournament game in which Kentucky avenged its loss five years earlier to Duke. A neighbor knocked on my door to see if I was all right. I lived in North Carolina at the time and hesitated to proclaim my allegiance lest it put my life in danger. I couldn’t stop myself from blurting, though.

The neighbor extended his hand for a high five. “I’m from Kentucky!” he grinned broadly. His next trip home, he returned with a shirt for me.

But, seriously, how long can I get away with wearing a shirt so obviously a decade old without looking like a dolt?

It’s not my oldest model. There’s a vintage 1976 replica Dave Concepcion uniform jersey in another closet. I no longer wear it, but I can’t let it go.

Sports shirts seem to be my Achilles heel. The 2008 Fiesta Bowl edition will remain in my wardrobe until someone pulls the dry-rotted tattered remains from my body. The game was that great. For WVU fans, at least.

The mugs, though, tend to be horded more for the memories of the giver. A kelly green one promoting various Louisville, Ky., arts organizations. A West Virginia Public Radio mug that was a gift at the end of a long-ago internship. A boss’s day mug that proclaimed me a witch – or something a little more profane. They meant it lovingly. I think.

Bits of ceramic and cloth, mementos of a life. Not of the major events – birthdays, weddings and such that I have scads of photos to refer to. But remembrances of things as they once were day-to-day, of too many people I crossed paths with and then lost sight of.

Maybe we can just ditch Dad’s camera instead.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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