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Banished to the basement

Andrew Gmerek

I spent my weekend hauling stuff out of my home office, and while I was hauling, I was thinking. And while I was thinking, I was remembering. The day before my wedding, Mike, an unhappily married friend of mine, yanked me aside to discuss the pros and cons of matrimony. Now, Mike liked being married about as much as a pig likes a bath, and he was pretty blunt about it. The whole conversation was an attempt to talk me out of the wedding, but I wouldn’t listen, and honestly, I’m glad I didn’t. During Mike’s lecture, however, he said one thing that over the years has proven true.

“Mark my words, Andrew my boy,” Mike said with a grandfatherly nod.

“Marriage changes everything. Sooner or later, your stuff will start disappearing. One day you’ll look around and your favorite old ratty chair will be gone. Then your college shot glass collection will vanish. Pretty soon all your tools and your “Charlie’s Angels’ posters will turn up missing, and when you go to look for them, you’ll find them boxed and in the garage or basement. In the end, you’ll be visiting your most cherished possessions in some out-of-the-way corner of the house.”

I thought a lot about Mike while I spent two 16-hour days lugging most of my collection of junk out of my office, my writing room, my sanctum sanctorum and piling it all into the basement. My office, which up until recently was the only space in the house where my stuff could reside in peace and safety – where my junk didn’t have to watch its back – has had a facelift. My wife has moved in, and now I have to put the rules I learned in kindergarten into practice. I have to share.

When I was younger, elbow room was never an issue. If anyone wanted some of my space, all they had to do was push my few belongings to one side of my car’s trunk. But after I got married, things changed. Gradually, those places I viewed as temporary living quarters began to change from houses to homes.

Apartments that I would have kept bachelor-pad bare magically filled with cherished collectables, books, artwork, toys, plants and my wife’s antique furniture. And, I must admit, I liked it. I was always a person who considered himself a renter, and suddenly I was an owner. With ownership, however, came too much stuff.

During my recent whirlwind moving weekend, I looked around my office and I realized that in the past 13 years I’d managed to pack rat enough stuff in my small space to give a knick-knack to every man, woman and child living in China and still have a few McDonald’s Happy Meal toys left over as Christmas gifts. So I figured I could use to do a little spring cleaning. Besides, the reason for this massive banishment of my toys to the basement was that we are turning my wife’s former office into a nursery for our soon-to-be new daughter.

Over the years, there have been a few fights when my wife decided certain things of mine, like my “Charlie’s Angels” posters, no longer needed to be displayed in our living room, but this time when she wanted some things gone, I gave in without so much as a pout. Instead I happily boxed, bagged and lugged every piece of junk down into the darkness. Then I did something I thought I’d never do: I painted a room in my house – my daughter’s new room – pink.

Mike was right. Marriage does change everything. Isn’t it grand?


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