Packing up and Letting Go

Packing up and letting go. “It’s cathartic”, “It’s freeing”- these are some of the things that people told me about how I’d feel when going through my belongings and getting rid of clutter. Whether my stuff was going in the garbage, to a charitable organization or to a friend in need, I still found it hard to say goodbye. Nearly 25 years of marriage and 17 years in the house we are selling- is a long time to accumulate “stuff.”  There were even a few boxes that had never been opened when we moved from our apartment to the house. I could never seem to find a place in the house to display my music box collection. It didn’t matter that most of the music boxes stopped playing music. What mattered was that I shlepped the swiss chalet that once played “auld lang syne” all the way from Switzerland. A wise person once advised that you must “choose your battles.” I chose to concede this battle to my husband, Jay.  In return, I kept two of the six boxes filled with the kids’ nursery school creations.


Packing up is a nostalgic event in itself. Even Jay softened up when looking through old photos of us with the kids. “Wow, look at all the hair on my head,” he said. “Why didn’t we ever get our son a haircut?” we both laughed. Were we bad parents for allowing our daughter to wear her hair in pony tails for two years?

Jay and I, both type-A personalities, set packing goals and tried hard to achieve them. We’d conquer the living room and dining room for three days and then spend four days packing the kitchen, basement and garage. The mood was light while flipping through our high school and college year books. We tried to ignore the fact that it was 75 degrees and sunny outside while we were relegated to the basement. As the giveaway piles surpassed the moving boxes, we felt accomplished, maybe even “cathartic.” We were embarking on a new chapter in our lives in a book that had already been filled with pain and much happiness.

Box after box, memory after memory, it was a slow process. “I can’t throw away that napkin holder, that vase, that beaded necklace”- I pleaded. But in the end, I could. I weeded through what to keep and what to get rid of. And then I found it, the kale salad recipe that my cousin Beth and Aunt Debbi sent me. They promised that it was so delicious and easy to make. Since it was nearly break time, I stopped what I was doing and drove to the store to buy the ingredients for the kale salad. And since I was out, I decided to get gas because it was supposed to rain the next day.  Wow, I was turning into the anal retentive chef from that Saturday Night Live skit.  Circa 2008, Dan Hartman played a chef who is constantly distracted with other things that he can’t get through his cooking segment. Very funny and worth watching. But I digress.


Tuscan Kale Salad with Walnut Parmesan Dressing

I made this salad in a ziploc bag because I inadvertently packed all of my bowls. Since all of my sharp knives are also packed, I tore the kale leaves into pieces with my fingers.


1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup walnut oil
10 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 bunches Tuscan kale- washed, dried, center ribs removed, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste


Place sliced kale in a large bowl or gallon size ziploc bag. To prepare the dressing, in  a medium size bowl, whisk together garlic, lime juice and red pepper flakes.  Slowly drizzle in both oils and whisk vigorously. Stir in the parmesan cheese and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Pour dressing over kale, tossing well to coat. Let sit at least 10 minutes at room temperature before eating. I let it sit overnight in the refrigerator and it was even tastier the next day.

Later that night, as we were getting ready for bed, Jay turned to me and said, “Seriously, that T-shirt that you’re wearing is older than our kids.” “This Barcelona Olympics 1992 shirt is a classic,” I said. Jay replied, “It’s old and faded and clearly falling part, isn’t it time?”  I said that it reminds me of our one year anniversary when we met in Spain and traveled through Barcelona and the coast.

In the summer of 1991, I had taken the bar exam and traveled alone through Europe for two weeks. Jay and I met up in the Barcelona airport to travel through Spain for two weeks. Think pre-cellphone times.  The night before Jay and I met up, I had moved out of my room to share a room with another woman who was also traveling alone. She had just taken the Texas bar exam and we thought it wold be fun to stay up talking on our last night of the trip. What transpired set the stage for a bad romantic comedy. Jay had been trying to contact me in my hotel room the night before his arrival to let me know that his flight was four hours late. I never got his messages and I woke up with an earache that left me without hearing in one ear. The language barrier prevented me from finding out from the airport personnel about the delayed flight.

Bad romantic comedy alert- Jay and I spotted each other across the crowded terminal, think hundreds of sweaty travelers carrying farm animals- we ran towards each other. We hugged and rambled on about cancelled flights, an empty hotel room and a clogged ear. Besides the rocky start of our trip, we ended up having a fantastic time in Spain.


Jay said that he doesn’t need an old shirt to remind him of the amazing time we had on that trip. As he rolled over and fell into a deep sleep, I listened to the sounds of his light snoring. I whispered, “No, it’s not time for this T-shirt to go.” At that moment, I decided that some things are not meant to be discarded- not yet- at least not tonight.



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