This is my response to a New Yorker post about the essay “How To Practice” by Ann Patchett.
And yet again, Ann Patchett has me in tears and unsuspected guffaws. I, too, illogically attach emotions to my possessions and treasures. When clearing out the house that I designed, built, and raised my children in, it took very tough love from my very wise grown children to “let it go”.
My childhood doll Beanie Boy had lost a foot in the 60s. Known for tall tales, I told all that he had been run over by a car, but in truth, the foot just fell off one day! Beanie was a gift from my mom. When I was three years old, and due to having a hernia operation, I remember picking him out in a long row at a great big store for a special gift. Being one of five children, this was a height of joy. Time alone with my mom and given free reign to pick out a doll!
The indulgence was thrilling. I slept with Beanie for decades, bringing him to college and my single in the city string of apartments while in my twenties. I even kept coins in the pockets of his corduroy overalls.
Forbidden to let him stay in my baby son’s crib by his father (he had a point, the doll was a bit bedraggled by then), Beanie slowly slid into the background as I joyfully became a mother to a total of three delightful babies.
Through the start of my little business, a divorce, chaotic moves, and eventually, moving into the house that we built for ourselves, Beanie came along for the ride.
When packing up to leave our beloved house two winters ago, I sent an uncaptioned photo of Beanie to my three children who all replied, “NOOOOOOO!”. Nonetheless, it was time.
Where I found the strength I’ll never know. Letting Beanie go represented that moment with my mom, my childhood, my college years, and the incredible fun of dating a nice fellow who, when first spotting the doll in my apartment cried out, “BEANIE”! Incredulously, he had the same doll from his childhood – thus earning him a nickname that sticks forty years later. The emotional attachment was enormous, and my fear was that Beanie would know of his doom. Illogical, emotional, intentional.
After careful thinking in the midst of an aggressive purge to downsize my life, counseling from my kids, and in lieu of donating Beanie (wax head, footless), I didn’t think he’d ever be truly loved by anyone else. After putting a nickel into one of his pockets and kissing him goodbye, in true respectful funereal mode, I wrapped him in a cherished blanket and, like a mummy studied by my late archaeologist mother, entombed him in a styrofoam cooler.
Humming a dirge, I carried him out to the garbage bins, awaiting a ceremonial pick-up early the next day.
Watching those garbage bins out of my kitchen window during the night, I could see those garbage bins on the side of the road, through the woods, waiting solemnly for the garbage truck. I almost made a mad dash out to save him. Resisting the pull, I climbed into bed, whispering a little goodbye to him before sleep came.
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