Monday, September 13, 2010

Yellow Nemesis

I don't know why I should hate them so. They've never really done anything to me. And they are (potentially) more interesting, certainly, than the piles and piles and piles of crap books my father hoarded—books on WWII, the Nazis, airplanes, trains, Lindburgh, photography, &c. which are still safely inhabiting the bookshelves of the house.

And yet, just knowing they were there, obliviously sunny in their happy shiny bright yellow, well, it was like they were mocking me.

So, even though I still don't know what I plan to do with them, and even though my mother is probably going to fight it, tonight I gathered up all the National Geographics I could immediately lay my hands on, and dumped the lot in the middle of the living room floor. Though I pulled them from the hallway, piano room, and living room bookcases (and floor), alas, that's not all of them, for I'm almost positive there is also a substantial cache of the damned things in the upstairs garage.

Then I put on some prog-rock as soundtrack, plunked myself down on the floor, and started sorting.

I made a rule, first, though: absolutely no reading them. I don't know, honestly, if I have some of the hoarding gene myself. I do know that I get easily distracted and overwhelmed when cleaning and attempting to sort things; but this could equally be the fault of growing up in a hoarding house and being taught that you absolutely must go through everything in excruciating detail before you are allowed to throw anything away (in the hopes, of course, that the job will be as lengthy and aggravating, and therefore as inefficient, as possible, with the end result being that the least amount of stuff is thrown away), or, it could be that I am simply a very visual person by nature (I am an artist, after all). So, I made myself not look at them, except to check the dates.

I sorted them into piles by decade. The 2000s, the 1990s, the 1980s, the 1970s, the 1960s, and to my surprise, the 1950s. After a few minutes of sorting, though, I added, unbelievably, the 1940s pile. When my mother came by a little while later I showed her the piles, expressing my surprise at the ones from the '50s and '40s. She said, "But they're still good!" and my heart just sank. There are few things a child of a hoarder hates to hear more than the phrase "It's GOOD!" Trust me on that one.

Eventually I had weeded out all the duplicates, rather more than I had thought there were going to be. And I'd found out that there were still plenty missing. It's far from a complete set, though there are certainly lots of them.

Five hundred and fourteen of them, to be exact, assuming my math is correct.

Holy fuck.

When my mother came through again I showed her the three tall stacks of duplicates. "Oh," she said, "I can cut them up then." And she made to grab them, to put in her room.

Now, my mother is not the hoarder; however, we've all been trained to it by years of living with my father. None of us, really, have any idea what is normal. We are, I'm quite sure, exponentially more trigger-happy than my father was when it comes to throwing things away, but who's to say that our standards still aren't skewed towards hoarding? So I don't know.

I managed to shoo her away from them, by telling her, "NO" quite sternly.

But I don't know. When I was done sorting them, I did look through one, one that had an article on the Minoans. Now, I'm a big ancient history buff and have been on a Minoan kick lately; I have several books on them. But this article had good and unusual photos in it, ones I didn't have in any of my books (like some of the little house facade tiles from Knossos, of which I've only seen drawings in Evans's The Palace of Minos, Crete), or which I didn't have that clearly or that big (like the pictures of the Theran miniature ship-frescoes). There was another that had an article specifically on the excavation at Aphrodisias in Turkey, which is not really something you are going to find, in that detail, in any book. And I wondered if it was worth it to go through them and cut out the articles I actually might use.

Now I know that there is plenty available on the internet. I am also lucky in that I have access to JSTOR (the academic journal database); but that tends to not have a lot of pictures. I just don't know if it's worth it, to go through all that trouble. But it might be.

In some ways this whole process is like a microcosm of the issues I face in dealing with this house and the hoarding. What is valuable? What has worth? What is more important, the things or my time and energy?

Although, there is also this: I am sniffling and sneezing now. Not only were they dusty old things, but they were a bit moldy, too, that sort of dry but sticky mold that in this house is just taken as normal for books. I had to wash my hands repeatedly, and remember to under no circumstances touch my eyes as I was sorting. I plan on taking a bath, at least to rinse off, before I go to bed. For that reason alone they should probably all just go.


Michele said...

Now I want to go read about the Minoans!

Seriously. You can buy National Geographic DVDs with ALL the magazines since 1888, all the pictures, every printed page, and it's even currently on sale for $54.95.

(sorry for the long tag, I'm technologically challenged)

Why would your mom want to cut them up? You could make a deal with her about the hard copies. Maybe she'd be willing to keep, say, 5 or 10 or so, and give up the rest? And then you could get the DVDs for yourself.

It almost blows my mind to think about the comparison of space usage. How much space would it take up to keep over 100 years of NG in hard copy format, vs the set of DVDs! And that doesn't even take into consideration the bugs and mildew and overall yuckiness of the hard copies.

Good luck!

Thalia said...

Thank you.

(I note with some amusement that the word verification word I've got is 'imisane'. 'I'm insane'? Great.)

My mother wants to cut them up (and keep them) because she does read them, and because she is an artist. She's kind of starved for subject matter, I think, and has been known to use pictures out of magazines, of like tigers or something. (That makes her sound like a really cheesy artist; she's not).

I don't personally care enough to get the set on CD or whatever. It wouldn't help my mother at all, as she is old and does not use computers. Also I do think that actual printed photos are better than jpgs or whatever on the computer, as far as detail goes. I know I've gone looking for pictures of say the Minoan stuff online and been disappointed in the quality of the pictures I found. Some of them weren't all that useful.

So, hmmm. I'm afraid to touch them right now, sort of. I'm still stuffy and sneezy from last night. Though I've had some meds, which should help. Fexofenadine is my friend!

Thalia said...

I came through the living room last night, and found that one of the cats had left an offering of a very dead mouse among the National Geographics.

I thought it was an appropriate comment, so I'm mentioning it here. Since the cats can't type.

Well, that I know of.

Rosa said...

If they're moldy, they have to go. Your mom can't cut them up because she'd have to touch them.

I like to cut things out of magazines, I have a thick file of pictures and words I cut out of various magazines. So I have a lot of sympathy - but mold is a bad, bad thing to have up close to your face.

Would she accept a trade of tossing those and getting fewer, newer magazines for artwork? Around here good-condition magazines (including tons of Natl Geo) are 10-25 cents at the thrift store.

Thalia said...

When I told my mother about the mold she was like, Oh, come on, that's just mold, and that's not that bad. I had to tell her well it's bothering me, and I'm sneezing and miserable here, and aren't you supposed to care about the health of your child? What kind of mother are you, anyway? That worked, mostly.

She doesn't listen to reason, for the most part. We've argued before about, say, food in the fridge that I think is off and so have thrown out. Every time I tell her, you know, Ma, food poisoning will probably just make me throw up; but you're 83 and it could actually put you in the hospital. She always tut-tuts that. As far as I can tell it's true, though.

She doesn't listen, I guess, is the gist of all that.

Rosa said...

Well, it hasn't killed her yet, right? Sorry, that one is too familiar not to laugh at.

My grandmother, at 93, thought it was perfectly OK to take a leftover chicken, add some sugar and vinegar (ew) and leave it on the countertop to "pickle" for a few days before she ate it.

Just like they did back in 1925 before they had a refrigerator.

Congrats on getting all the National Geographics out of your house, though!

Thalia said...

Chicken≠cucumber, and therefore should not be pickled, that I have ever heard. WTF?