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South of the Etowah GUEST COLUMN: Such stuff and junk as dreams are made on

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Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins

My wife and I agree that we have accumulated way too much stuff over the years, and we have reached the consensus that we need to get rid of some of it.

We have discussed having a yard sale, making extensive donations to charity, or just parking a roll-back dumpster in the yard and shoveling the excess possessions out the windows.

So while we agree that something has to go, there is a problem.

This unresolved issue involves the selection of what to keep and what to pitch. My wife seems to be pretty attached to all of her stuff and wants to hold onto it, but she is quite vocal in her opinion that most of my stuff ought to be hauled away — at night, if possible, so the neighbors won’t see it.

I, on the other hand, kind of like all of my stuff and want to keep it, but I think we can do without many of the gee-gaws and fripperies that comprise the bulk of her stuff.

It’s a problem, all right, and lest you think that I’m not willing to compromise, please know that I have already offered to give up my leisure suit, my reversible waterproof ammo belt, my chia pet collection, and my bottle and jar cutter (the thing never worked right, anyhow).

This might be a good time to mention that my wife calls her stuff stuff, but she calls my stuff junk, and therein lies the problem. As is the case with most things in life, I suppose it all comes down to ownership and perspective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Let me describe some of this junk to you and see what you think.

She and I have been married for nearly forty years, and in that time we have traveled to a lot of places. You might not believe this, but I have a shot glass from nearly everywhere we have ever been.

There are hundreds of the things, and I keep them in the built-in china cabinet right there in the living room, so everyone can enjoy them. Whenever my wife looks in there, she comes away shaking her head, speechless. I can’t say that I blame her, because it is a pretty awesome sight.

Yet whenever we begin talking about junk versus stuff, she always brings up what may be the most extensive shot glass collection in the eastern half of the United States.

Here I have been diligently trying to build something important, a legacy to leave to my children, and she wants to sell my little one-ounce dreams to strangers for fifty cents apiece, or five dollars for a baker’s dozen.

It’s discouraging.

In addition to shot glasses, I collect old bricks.

No, not just any old brick will do. I like my bricks to be stamped with the manufacturer’s mark. Now, I have only been collecting old bricks for twenty years or so, so I don’t have nearly as many of them as I do shot glasses, but I’m still pretty young, and you just never know when you might run up on another great brick.

As you might imagine, the bricks also fall into the junk category, and for some reason my wife was against them from the start.

Wife: You’re collecting bricks now?

Me: Look at this one! It’s stamped OHIO.

Wife: Will we be using them to break the shot glasses?

Me: Well, no…

Wife: (sighs)

I was keeping the bricks out on the porch, both as interesting topics of conversation and because they weren’t allowed in the house, until the day my daughter’s boyfriend used a vintage ACME to subdue a large and stubborn catfish that wasn’t accepting his fate gracefully. Now they’re under lock and key, like the collector’s items they are.

In addition to the brick and shot glass collections, my tools are often referred to as junk, not because of what they are so much as because of where they are.

We live in an old dwelling that is constantly needing repair, and I like to pre-stage my tools all over the house so that I will be able to respond more quickly in case of household emergency.

Okay, I sense that you’re not buying that, but don’t feel bad, because my wife doesn’t buy it either.

The truth is, I’m bad to leave my tools out when I finish with them, which means that they aren’t where I can find them next time, which means I have to go buy another one, which is why I have forty-seven screwdrivers, four hammers, and sixteen pairs of pliers.

I could go on, but as I have been writing this column, it has become obvious what I need to do. Tomorrow, after I spend a bit of quality time with my bricks and my shot glasses, I’m going to step up and do the right thing.

Yes, I’m going to build a storage shed, so we’ll have more room for stuff and junk. Now, where did I leave that hammer?

Raymond L. Atkins is an English instructor at Georgia Northwestern Technical College. His third novel is “Camp Redemption,” released by Mercer University Press.