How the Grinch stole Christmas (well, not exactly Xmas but most of my stuff instead)

It was the week after Christmas and all through my house, there was the usual activity, the usual grouse. I was snug as a bug when my cell rang, “Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo” but it wasn’t Cindy-Lou or any other Who… was the manager of the storage facility in Kansas City calling to tell me my unit had been robbed.

She was sorry to tell me that while on her morning rounds she discovered that my lock had been cut and when she opened the 10 by 25 foot unit I rented she could see that for such a big space there was very little in it.

I was then and I am now still in a state of disbelief-denial being a safer place to live than Missouri I’ve come to learn, too late. My initial reaction was ”Oh no!” and “Fuck!”(I think I said that a couple of times) then I reminded myself out loud not to take out whatever I was feeling on this woman who was just doing her job and concentrated on listening to what she was telling me. I asked a few questions and hung up knowing that I’d be talking to her again along with the police.

My first call after I hung up was to Chad and not the police, I wanted his comfort and I needed his help. Poor puss, I think he took the news harder than I did when I told him. Thank God for Chad, though, he was (and is) there for me, agreeing to do whatever was needed in my stead.

Funny, I used to write that I “left” my life in KC to join my mother’s here in Maryland, but at the time I thought that what I left was safe and sound on Southwest Blvd in a 10 x 25 foot space, neatly packed on “pause”, just waiting for me to return and hit the “resume” button that was my life.

Since I was in the middle of shaving when Joyce, the manager called, I saw no reason to not finish my toilet so I proceeded shave and shower so that I could be fresh for whatever hell was in store for the rest of the day.

I didn’t know what I felt, but I knew I didn’t feel like sitting around the apartment so I went to the Mall-what better place to clear your mind after you’ve heard that everything other than what you could mail to yourself or load in your PT Cruiser was probably gone.

I walked the Mall aimlessly for a while, no clear path or destination in mind. Truth be told the local Mall has seen better days-as have the shoppers that frequent it. Nothing piqued my interest until I found myself in Target, the familiar feel of a shopping cart and the noise of a catty-wompuos wheel that was rattling. I walking up and down the aisles perusing the after Christmas sales and in no time I had a cart full of crap, 1/2 priced Xmas decorations and candy (bags of marked down treats). I even managed to justify a flat screen TV (on sale!), DVDs and some accessories for home I just “had to have”-after all I “don’t have” as of today, so, shop I did.

I even managed to drum up a little “after Christmas” spirit and put a pack of Nathan’s Hot Dogs in the cart for Miss Cathy. She loves Nathan’s Hot Dogs, she considers the price exorbitant for frankfurters so to her they are a delicacy and a “special treat”-much the way others would view caviar. Well, if I could have a tin of cashews dipped in chocolate while I watched something banal on a new flat-screen then she should have a treat, too!

An hour or so into my shop-a-thon I headed for the check out, stopping an aisle or two away, coveting my orgy of purchases. I looked at all that I’d picked up, carefully scrutinized and selected (these were no random, impulse items) I comparison shopped, selected the best of what was left on the sale racks and satisfied with my selections I went to the check out.

I left with the Nathan’s Hot dogs as my sole purchase. The shopping cart, I’m ashamed to say because I believe in department store etiquette (putting things back where you found them if you’re not going to buy them) was left abandoned for some clerk to find and have to re-stock.

In the parking lot holding onto my weenies while I looked for my car, I thought about what the universe was trying to tell me-again. Unfortunately, this is not my first experience with theft. Back in the late 80’s my apartment in New York was robbed of all my jewelry. At the time I had a lot of unique, expensive antique and original jewelry-most of which were gifts that I wore religiously, pins and brooches, on my lapel, fingers, on my hat, sweaters and vests. I was “known” for my eccentric style and the jewelry was an important part of giving me an identity that I could hide behind long before I had one of my own. What that loss taught me was not to covet ‘things’ so much as to enjoy possessions for what they are and not what they represent. The theft also forced me out from behind the accoutrements, to be me-sans decorations, unadorned, flaws and all. So, the universe had an important lesson for me to learn and I think I got it.

I lived that lesson for several years, but as time accumulated so did new possessions and obsessions (antiquing and collecting) and my ego for a time was stocked as full as my wine cellar. So, the universe stepped in, once again, to give pause to my life so that I could reevaluate what was important.

In 2004, what the papers called a “100 year rain” hit the small rural town where I once lived and owned an old farmhouse. After it’s sale the town in which it was located became the location of the storage facility for all that housed my life; antiques, furniture, archives of my life’s work up until that point (about 20 years worth of original art, sketches, notes, serigraphs and sketchbooks) books, clothes and all of my childhood possessions including pictures, yearbooks, comics and all my old “diaries” and adult journals.

The “100 year rain” came so fast and so furious that the Delaware River that bordered the town became so swollen that it overflowed it’s banks and flooded the town, leaving hundreds homeless. My storage facility was in the low-lands and thus in the river’s watery path so 65% of my possessions ended up buried under seven feet of water and mud. What little was let was dried in the sun and moved to higher ground, there was much pain and a long battle with the insurance company but ultimately, another lesson learned in “letting go” and moving on.

And now the universe is speaking to me once more, but, damn, does it always have to be a punch up side the head instead of a soft tap on the shoulder to get my attention, robbed of about 80% of what I’ve accumulated since starting what I thought would be a new, quiet life in the Midwest.

And so I ask, what is the measure of a man? In years gone by property, possessions and children were what were left to judge a life lived well. Well, we all know I have no children (that is if you don’t count Miss Cathy), and although I’ve owned two homes and possessions worthy of being photographed for a life-style magazine I find that I have nothing more than the memories and a magazine.

Here I am at the close of 2010 living in Maryland with my mother, the Midwest forsaken for selflessness. For the first time since I was seventeen years old I find that I do not have a lease with my name on it, so I have no “home” to call my own and now only a few possessions that represent the life I’ve lived. What I wonder is what am I to gain from this? What is the universe is telling me, showing me?

Part of me feels that what I have to learn (again) and be reminded of (again) is that nothing is tangible, to enjoy what you have when you have it, and that our memories of what we do with what we have is truly all we can ever have to hold onto. It’s the people and experiences that are important and not the “things”, although there is nothing wrong with possessions, just the importance we attach to them can be suspect.

And maybe the universe is telling me that it’s time to let go of the (recent) past-literally, for my time in Kansas City was anything but quiet. I was tested and judged, and learned a lot about myself and grew in ways that I could only learn having been there, in that time, under those circumstances. Suffice to say it was one of the most challenging chapters of my life. So, maybe now the time has come to be free, and in loss there is much to gain.

I’d also like to believe that at the end of this decade, after all that I’ve been through in the “aughts” and now 2010, that the new decade ahead holds so much abundance for me that I had to make room for all that is to come.


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