It's Monday morning and my whole body aches and burns. My "workout" this past golden, crisp Fall weekend was not a bracing bikeride or run through the woods, but rather the down and dirty job of cleaning out our small, pokey basement en famille. The family that digs, cleans, finds and sorts together, sweats and stays together. Trust me.
We are Jewish, so with the New Year and Day of Atonement imminent, we want to make a fresh start, we want to be better people. On a more practical note, we want to host our friends and family, and our sole guest room is this debacle of a wasteland, down, down, down in the basement. How could we possibly put anyone in this cluttered subterranean cave as our "guest." They would never return for another visit.
The big dig seemed endless, our basement bottomless. It was hard to conceive of the amount of junk that we managed to accumulate over eight years in our Montreal home. Countless school workbooks and art projects of our two children, Tobias and Rosamond, still small when we moved in, now a teen and a preteen. Teetering stacks of broken toys, dolls missing limbs, tracks without trains, squashed VHS cases and orphan videos. Remember Barney and sharing, those eerie hallucinatory Teletubbies, or my personal favorites: Mr. Rogers and The Wiggles?
We filled industrial-sized black shiny trash bags with the detritus of our lives that we could no longer justify saving. Into our van the bags went, stacked to the ceiling, with trip after trip to the recycling center in our neighborhood, where our junk could be reused and reconfigured into something useful.
Amidst the rubbish as my British-born husband Michael likes to call anything that's trash or nonesense, material or abstract, we excavated found treasures: an orphan pearl and gold earring, an early courtship present from Michael (thankfully, I still have its mate). A little bag of rough garnets my brothers and I collected on a family holiday in the country where the roads were paved not only with gravel but with semi-precious claret-colored stones, rough-hewn genuine garnets. Early journals of my son, Tobias, now a blossoming writer in his own right. Cherished family photographs and a family tree, lovingly assembled by our daughter, Rosy, and researched with frantic calls to much-loved Zaidehs and Bobbehs who are getting on in years, who may not be around much longer.
Today, I am tired, but the sweat and tears were worth it.
The big dig is not unlike the hard work I do each day, day-after-day, week-after-week, month-after- month, and year-after-year as a writer, a novelist in particular. I must take out the shovel, dig and dig, get dirty with life and imagination, to come up with the treasures, the jewels. It is not all inspiration, by any means, but plenty of perspiration, work-women-like, showing up each day, going to my room of one's own, no matter how I feel, having faith that if I continue to dig, the treasures, the jewels, will glimmer in the earth, waiting to be found.