Damage assessed

By Mir
May 27, 2006

Funny, it doesn’t actually LOOK like all that much, to me, once I view it in a little picture. It doesn’t LOOK like hours and hours of hauling and dragging and sorting and boxes that fell apart halfway up the stairs.

All I need now is a car up on blocks in the yard and a toilet in the driveway

And as much fun as we had TODAY, we get to do (just about) all of it AGAIN when the dumpster gets here! Yay!

So the main thing, today, is that my ex came over without complaint and easily did twice as much work as I did, getting the basement cleaned out. For one thing, he’s bigger and stronger. For another thing, I’m a whiner and a slacker. “I’m tiiiiired,” I would say, just because, you know, stinky waterlogged boxes are heavy and it was 85 degrees outside.

The basement has always been cluttered. When we moved into this house 6 years ago, we brought boxes that had never been opened when we moved into the last house. And we always seemed to be adding to the piles of boxes and castoffs down there. Based on what I saw today, there should be at least four computer monitors in this house. It’s puzzling.

About a year ago–after my ex had been gone for a couple of years–I demanded that he come retrieve whatever still belonged to him in the basement. Over the course of a few weeks, we went through innumerable boxes and sent a fair amount of stuff over to HIS basement. This rendered about half of my basement downright tidy, and I was determined to clean up the other half once and for all.

I never did it, of course. Nor did either of us realize that there was still a fair amount of his belongings in the remaining boxes.

Today, I wanted to throw away ANYTHING that had been sitting in the swamp water. I didn’t much care what was IN the boxes. I just wanted it all to disappear, as quickly as possible. My ex insisted we go through everything. This allowed for maximum distress over every destroyed item.

My parents paid some insane amount of money to have my college degree mounted on a piece of fancy wood and lacquered to perfection. Obviously I wasn’t paying much attention to it, if it was down in the basement in a box, but it still seemed sort of sad to pull it out and note the fine patina of mold it’s now sporting. (A peek into my bizarre logic: Oh, crap. Well, I don’t even KNOW where my grad school degree is. At least I found this one!)

My ex’s Boy Scout merit badges didn’t fare very well, either. I tried to be appropriately sympathetic, even though I enjoyed Brownies for years and promptly quit Girl Scouts after about three weeks when the troop leader’s daughter told me I was ugly.

The tiny tiger costume that was both kids’ first Halloween costume elicited an “Oh NO!” from both of us. Up until then I had been hurling soggy, outgrown clothing into garbage bags; the thought of laundering all of those mildewed items was more than I could bear. But we saved the tiger outfit. I’ll wash it. I don’t know what we’ll do with it, afterwards, but it seemed like we should save it.

“Bad omen, dude,” I chuckled as showed him the collage frame I’d taken off the wall when we divorced. It held pictures from around our wedding: One of our invitations, scenes from the rehearsal dinner, a group shot from my bridal shower, a few family scenes, and–my favorite–a picture that summed up our disastrous honeymoon. (You probably can’t read their motto in that photo… it says, “If our food, drinks, and service aren’t up to your standard, please lower your standards.”) My ex scanned the frame, turning it this way and that, trying to determine if any of the pictures were salvageable. I convinced him the entire thing was trash.

A couple of boxes later, he came across our leftover wedding invitations and matching informals. (I’ve never understood why they’re called informals. If I’m sending you a cream-colored card with my name on it, with an envelope and stamp? Dude, that’s FORMAL. Informal is when I email you.) “Do you want to keep one?” he asked.

I snorted. “Um. No.” And in the back of my mind, I remembered that he is more sentimental than I, and between the wedding pictures frame and this, I was teetering close to the line where I look like a heartless bitch. Not that I’m NOT, you understand, but the man was giving up his Saturday in the sweltering heat to get covered in swamp waste and mildew. I should probably make an effort not to be a complete wench.

“Fine,” he responded. And then, with an almost imperceptible twitch at the corners of his mouth: “Hmph. See if I ever ask YOU to marry me again!”

I forget, sometimes, that he used to be funny. That he can still be funny. That we’re back to a comfortable place, sometimes, where jokes like that don’t cause his face to harden–where he’s the one MAKING those jokes.

So despite the many lovely surprises we unearthed (mmmmm, delicious moldy endtable behind splintering dresser!), I’d have to say that not all of today’s discoveries were unpleasant.


  1. Jenn

    You are marvelously well-adjusted, dear Mir, really, in spite of all you have been through. I am amazed that you are not a drooling, seizing wreck. Seriously. Congratulations on a karmically forced but potentially wonderful fresh start in life. I feel good things coming your way. I really do.

  2. Heather C.

    Oh what a witty ex you have! LOL It’s good to have an amicable relationship with The Ex. I think I have one with mine, but I’m not sure if he’d come over and help me out with anything like what you’ve been going through…

  3. Susan

    Good lord that’s a LOT of stuff you hauled out. Whew. Makes me tired looking at it.

    (And this post made me a little weepy, in a happy kind of way, because your writing is so beautiful and despite the mold and mildew you found some lovely things in your cleaning.)

  4. kelly

    Wow, jokes with the ex. After 6 years, we still haven’t reached the stage of “comfortable making jokes.”

    Glad you got all that moldy stuff out of the basement, and found the space in yourself to be a bit ruthless with it. The past sure can suck a person in.

  5. Jessica

    How lucky you are to have an ex that was willing to come over and help you so much. What a mess to clean up! I nearly got a little weepy myself, reading this. I’ve been reading the saga of your flooding with a growing sense of recognition all this time. 20-some years ago, the groundwater began to come up around, and eventually in, my family’s home. We even lived with standing water in part of the house for several months, until we put a new house up on the hill. We moved everything that was very, very important, but because of the awkwardness of the move (driving a huge tractor and flatbed through 2 feet of water), and the fact that there were also the things from my grandfather’s two-story farmhouse to move, many things got left behind. Toys, old clothes, some furniture, many things of sentimental value. Over the years, as those two houses have eventually collapsed into the (now receding from its 10′ high) water, those things have begun to drift up on the “beaches,” making those heartrending moments even more unpredictable and painful.

  6. Jenn2

    Oh, honey….

    It’s probably the pregnancy, but I just wept for you. Of course, I cried while reading my toddler a bedtime story as well, so take it with a grain of salt.

    I’m sorry life is sucking.

  7. Sheryl

    I looks like a TON of stuff to me. Big points to your ex for helping. A lot of divorces never get that good.

  8. Vanda

    Yikes, That a tonne of stuff I’m amazed that you have managed to keep a sense of homour about all this.

    I’ve read your blog from the begining and you should feel very proud of yourself. You’ve changed so much, but that humour has been there though out.

  9. Cele

    I must say I am thankful you can’t have a basement here. My first would have to sobber up, my secod ex…well if his wife would let him come over to help he would…well I guess that’s a “no” because now he has an excuse to not. On the other hand it would be my current that would make the “see if I ever ask you to marry me again” comment.

    I wish I had your way with words.

  10. tori

    We have the same kind of boxes in our basement…the ones we moved from two previous houses unopened. I don’t want to open them now because what I imagine is in there is probably so much more fun than what is actually in there. I don’t so much like to live in reality most times. I hope we aren’t setting ourselves up for a flood by storing them all in the basement though! I’m so glad things are starting to look up for you!

  11. Fran

    We’re in the midst of bathroom overhaul…I have a lovely turquoise blue toilet you so deperately need to make your neighbors drool with envy over…or maybe just drool. Nice job & funny/good moment with the X. Here’s to many more of those.

  12. Amy-GO

    This would have just destroyed me – I’m ridiculously sentimental. You must have a very low mental illness number indeed, Tulip!

    Also, it makes me limp with terror, because everyone thinks this is a very large amount of stuff, and for sure I have no doubt that cleaning it up took you all day, but it looks to be about a fourth of what is currently lurking in MY basement. Perhaps it’s time for a little spring cleaning…;)

  13. Heather

    Aw sounds like your ex isn’t half-bad. Not that I’m suggesting you take him back or anything silly like that. :-)
    PS – It never remembers my personal info. Sad!

  14. Dana

    I’m sorry to hear about the flood. I helped my sister-in-law when the sewer backed up into her basement. It was a lot of work. I hope you took time to rest!

  15. Dawn

    That looks like hours of hauling and dragging and sorting to me…

    How wonderful to have an ex like that! It’s rather unusual, but nice to read about.

    I hope this is the end of your audition for the role of Job. Enough is enough already. You’ve proven your worth, time for karma to send you some good things!

  16. the Mater

    Amazed that the “ex” continues to be so friendly and helpful. I don’t want to trade war stories, but I seem to remember clearing out a house which held 26-30 years’ worth of stuff (his and mine) but only having the kids and friends to help. Count your lucky stars!

    And here’s to drier weather :>) You certainly deserve some sunshine! Did the second claims adjustor follow through? $$ ??

  17. ben

    Wow, that is one fine looking tree you’ve got there!

    Sorry about all the crap that seems to have landed on you at once. On the bright side, lookee there, we got the basement cleared out!

  18. Karen Rani

    That was touching. Through all the crap you’re going through – he managed to make you laugh. I’m sure that it wasn’t all a loss. It’s nice that the two of you can manage to be more than civil to each other. You amaze me.

  19. Kris

    I haven’t read what everyone else said, so if this is a repeat, please forgive me, Mir.

    Wash that tiger outfit with oxyclean in the cycle. If that doesn’t work, then soak it for a few hours.

    Then when it’s clean and dry, put it on a teddy bear or a doll about the size of your kids at that age. (I’m assuming they were babies.)

    We did that with a small outfit I couldn’t bear to get rid of. (So the bear wears it! LOL!)

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