Last week I participated in an archeological dig. I really didn't want to do it. It was Sunday, the universal day of rest and Chinese take-out. Spending the day on my knees, digging through ruins, brushing off dust and hoping to find something of significance? Not on the agenda. Well, I was wrong.
It started that morning when Ellie called me, her voice shaky. "Please," she said, "it's out of control." I raced over, and it was true. The site was a disaster zone. Shoes were stacked to the ceiling. Layers of sweaters spilled from their shelves, and socks, like colorful spackle, stuck in the corners. She motioned to it, a bit ashamed. "Can you help?" she asked. "Yes," I said. "Move to another house." Really, it seemed like the only option.
The archeological dig, circa the late 1980s, was my sister's closet. I rolled up my sleeves. We had a lot of work to do.
I positioned Ellie before an honest mirror -- not one of those funhouse ones that always make you look ten pounds thinner and six inches taller. (That's right, I'm talking to you, Macy's.) You can tell a lot about a civilization from the clothes its members choose to wear. Bohemian peasant skirts from her school years. Coats with shoulder pads (early nineties.) Rhinestone studded T-shirts (retro disco.) An impulsively purchased red leather jacket. We did a little "Thriller" dance in its honor and declared the Eighties over. And, the downfall of every woman: jeans, jeans, jeans. Boot cut, skinny, straight leg. Size six jeans from college, eight while she lived in New York, and size two from some magical land in her dreams where unicorns nibble on winning lottery tickets.
The process of selection was harsh and swift. I would hold up an item and ask all the scientific questions: "How old is it?" "Does it still look good?" "Will you ever wear it again?" (And, of pink suede cowboy boots, "What were you thinking?") Little by little, as we filled bags for a local charity, we began to unearth an actual closet filled with wearable clothes that fit. Finally I shouted, "I can see it!" And there it was, the floor. Covered with dust and in desperate need of cleaning. But I had come prepared for the adventure. After a quick vacuuming and a scrub of the baseboards with some Seventh Generation Natural All Purpose Cleaner, we sat back on our heels and let out our breath. In the end it took six brutal hours of digging, stopping only for water, apple slices, and jelly beans. I can safely say, having been there as well for the birth of Ellie's son, this was more labor intensive. But at least this time I went home with a pair of leather boots. (Closet, one. Baby, zero.)
Although it may not make any scientific journals, I can officially report that the archeological dig was a huge success. Now there is nothing in Ellie's closet older than her teenage son -- or the century. Have you done any excavating in your closet lately?