One afternoon early in our dating relationship, as I am stuck at Primo's apartment visiting him and he is working and there is nothing good on TV like "Bridezillas" or "What Not To Wear," I decide to count his shirts. His blue shirts. I have been asking for closet space because his huge closet is jammed full of clothes. Clothes that he doesn't use so much because when he is working from home, he wears sweatpants and a t-shirt. Or just stays in his robe. Oh like you wouldn't. It's noon right now and I am still in my PJs, but I have worked on our taxes and done two loads of laundry. Standards slip when there is nobody to see.
I count. Eighty-five blue shirts. Eighty-five. I calculate that he could go three months without washing a shirt. And that's if he wanted to wear only the blue ones. He could go another month if he would wear other colors.
I accuse him of holding on to crap and he denies it. The things he keeps are important, he tells me.
But when we are getting ready to move out of his apartment and into the house two years later, he is forced to sort through some of the many boxes he brought with him from Y, the place 1,000 miles away where he lived with Isabel.
Boxes of things like his textbooks from college. Including his freshman year. I guess he didn't need to sell his books each semester so he would have money to buy the ones he needed the next semester. Primo's parents paid his tuition. Mine couldn't afford it. Maybe that's why I'm a little tight with my cash now. I had to work hard to pay for college, including working 60 hours a week in the summer and then part-time during school.
Not that I am the only person who has ever had to do that. I am not trying to be all woe is me or anything. And not like it was that hard. But wow how great would it have been to graduate without any debt? Or even to have had more time to goof off during the school year? Not that I didn't goof off. I just took my goofing-off time from study time instead of work time. How about, to have had more time to study? My priorities were not where they should have been in college.
Anyhow. Back to Primo's hoarding. We are class of 1985. If he really needs to know something about calculus or physics that he has forgotten since then, can't he just go to the google?
He has boxes of old notes from college, including some test scores he got from the other physics graders. (Primo was the head physics grader.) I recognize the handwriting on one of the notes and realize that it is from R.M., my college boyfriend and later fiancé. R.M. was a physics grader as well and he worked for Primo. How odd is that? Except we went to a very small college, so I guess it's not that surprising that Primo's and R.M.'s paths would have crossed that way, especially when they had the same major (electrical engineering).
He has phone bills from 1997. Claudia's college tuition receipts. The HR manual from the company where he worked in 1992.
I love Primo and he is mostly wonderful, but he and I disagree on what to keep and what to discard. Primo comes by his problem honestly, though. Sly and Doris do not have a surface of their house except the ceiling that is not covered with crap. You can barely open the closet in the guest room because it is stuffed with old clothes. On one trip, I found a bag full of old newspapers in the closet. Newspapers from the place they had lived before they moved. I looked and then checked with Primo to make sure I wasn't missing anything - that the papers were not anything special. Nope. They were just ordinary newspapers that they had paid to move 900 miles.
They have another bedroom that is so jammed full of stuff that the door can barely be opened. The garage is full of junk - cluttered junk. Primo and I organize the garage every time we visit, but our work does not last.
I am dreading cleaning out their house when they either die or move. There is so much furniture, totchkes, books and clutter in there. I would be perfectly OK with just calling Salvation Army and telling them to take it all, but I suspect that method will not be acceptable to Primo and his brothers. Primo and I have already agreed that nothing from his parents' house will be transferred to our house. Nothing.
Fortunately, the tendency to hoard is the only bad habit Primo has picked up from his parents. He does not yell at me until I cry or get drunk every night, so perhaps a few extra boxes in the basement isn't so bad.
Occasionally, he does move the boxes, but actually throwing things away is out of scope, as he tells me.
Primo: I moved those boxes so the plumber can get to the [whatever to TV the lines to see why our basement flooded in June and soaked our carpet when our neighbors' basements did not flood].
Me: Thanks, sweetie. Your one weekend chore is done. Relax.
Primo: Guess what I found in some of the boxes? Calendars from 1990!
Me: What did you do with them?
Primo: Left them in the box.
Me: Why didn't you throw them away?
Primo: Because then I would have had to go through the entire box and sort it out and I didn't have time for that project.
Me: No you wouldn't. You could have just thrown away the calendars and been done. Sheesh.
Primo: Nope. Besides, throwing things away was not in the scope of this chore.
I tell him that if his plane crashes, the first thing I do after getting rid of the cats will be to throw away all his basement boxes without even opening them. If they can go six or seven years without being opened, then there is nothing important in them.
He still has most of his blue shirts. When we were visiting Henry and Norah in Morocco, I was looking at photos with their little boy, Michael. Michael pointed to a photo of a man on a camel and asked if that was Primo. "I don't think so," I told him.
"Doesn't Primo have a blue shirt [like the man in the photo]?" Michael asked.
"Yes he does, Michael," I answered. "Yes he does."