Monday, March 21, 2011

Yellow Roses (the first downsize challenge)

The Downsize Challenge began for me last spring, while I was sitting on the edge of my Oma's tub, staring at a bottle of Jean Nate. It had been there as long as I could remember, right next to the dish of dusty little yellow soaps, shaped like roses, which I figured she must have won at Bridge, because they weren't the kind of thing she would have bought for herself. She had been a very practical person and didn't have much use for decorative things. I decided that the logical thing to do with the soap was to use it, but the little roses started to crumble when they made contact with the water, and they wouldn't lather. So I chucked the whole lot into the trash.

When I woke up the next morning, I desperately wanted them back. I stared down the trash chute next to the elevators and felt the permanence of the situation. They were gone. There was nothing I could do about it. I sat down for a while, in front of the recycling bins, on a pile of cardboard boxes, trying to compose myself before going back to check on Opa, who couldn't be left for too long. My thoughts eventually settled. “They're just soap. They are not Her. Love can never be thrown down a trash chute.”

If you have ever dismantled a place that has always existed in your heart, you know what it means to pour Jean Nate down the toilet.  


  1. My grandma was a decorator (she was a very early Martha, to tell the truth) and a serious (though tidy) hoarder. She kept a plastic blueberry bush on the back of her pink porcelain toilet. I remember one day a man came out of the bathroom, smiling away. Apparently he enjoyed "picking the blueberries" ... ???

    Anyhoo ... when my grandmother died, my sisters and my mother had to clean out her place. Oh, how I wished I'd have been there, but apparently to them it was quite horrendous ... all of her hand-sewn clothes, many of it not worn in decades ... and a gazillion other things. I was overseas, but I would have been the one who would have truthfully enjoyed the process. I'd also have moved in with my grandpa, who was a pretty cool old man. In a heartbeat.

    I love what you are doing, I totally get it.

  2. "a place that has always existed in your heart"
    What a powerful recognition. All those places are long dismantled for me, but I can recall them minutely in dreams.

  3. OMG Jean Nate...I had totally forgotten about that stuff! As soon as I read the words I could smell it! I'm sure there is a bottle lying in wait for me to find someday, probably stowed away under my parent's bathroom sink...that same bottle that's been there since the 70s. Thanks for the post.

  4. I totally am going through the same thing with my mother. I feel like I am living my life over again, only the Jean Nate is 40 years old now.It is a sad process for me because my own mortality is right behind my mother's. She is 91.

  5. Katie in AustraliaJune 26, 2011 at 4:13 AM

    Like Karen, I totally get why you did this. What a wonderful experience for you.