Purging the past to get to the future

Opinion: Columns

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

You never forget your first dumpster. We needed one for all the junk we had accumulated in 32 years. Family members stepped up to help. One of them ordered the dumpster. It was sleek and shiny and I couldn't wait to fill it. 

The day before we started, I spotted a beat-up pickup truck, filled with scrap metal, parked in the alley. I showed the driver the giant window units we had stacked in a closet. Somehow he got them down the stairs and into the truck. I promised him more metal the next day.

Getting rid of metal wasn't our only problem. Wood was also a concern. We had some massive dressers on the second floor that would no longer fit down the stairs. We had carried them up there, before we had the stairway dry-walled. This had cost us clearance. So my crew cut up the dressers with a power saw. 

They would have attacked my piano with the power saw but I couldn't bear that.  I donated it to American Music World, which sold pianos in Forest Park for many a year. I thought they'd be thrilled to get my old-fashioned spinet but Rick, the owner, said there is a glut of upright pianos in Chicago because the public is switching to keyboards. Nevertheless, for a modest fee, Rick and Ken removed the piano. Rick said they were taking it to a "piano farm" and it would eventually find happiness in "piano heaven."

Meanwhile, my wife and I attacked the basement. There was still stuff down there from the previous owners. I had boxes of memorabilia I had saved but never opened. We were ruthless, completely lacking in sentiment. Everything had to go.

Truth be told, our emotional attachment to the house had faded long ago. We could remember the good times but the material possessions meant little. One of my daughters rescued her American Girl dolls. I was determined to keep some meaningful items from my childhood and give them to my sister.

This meant rescuing the family china set from three attempts to throw it into the dumpster. I also salvaged the credenza where I used to do my homework. Finally, there was a leather-topped table and two hurricane lamps that were heirlooms. So long, childhood!

There were plenty of reminders of my kids' childhoods. There were boxes of their school papers and the cards they made us. There was a large collection of their trophies, participation ribbons and assorted awards. We even found a swimsuit with built-in Styrofoam floaties. That swimmer is now 32 years old.

We had a huge collection of photos from those days, which we last looked at the day they were developed. We saved them in a large plastic tub. It will be fun someday to go through them for laughs, memories and maybe a few cringes. 

After we emptied the house, it was time to attack the garage. We put a few useful items in the alley that scavengers would take immediately. I also collected a large pile of scrap metal for the guy in the beat-up pickup truck. The last item in the garage was a full container of fuel. I was wracking my brain until suddenly I remembered my car needed gas. After I poured it in, the engine sounded just like a weed wacker.

I was proud of my family and what we accomplished that day. There were no arguments, or raised voices. No one got hurt. We shared some good memories at dinner. 

Now it's time for a new family to make memories.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com

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