Kondo as a Verb

(We discovered a spoon with the Rous insignia)

No one enjoys moving, do they?

I am in awe that my mother moved us—sometimes once a year—when my step-father worked overseas on construction projects with oil companies.

We moved every year we lived in England because my parents had little advance warning when and where the next job would land us.

But the most memorable move was the first one, in the early 1960s, when we moved to Iran from the United States.

Before we departed my mum took all four of us girls to the store, outfitting us with saddle-shoes in a dozen sizes because she was told you couldn’t find decent shoes in Teheran.

She shipped only the essentials—boxes of shoes and her sewing machine—which took six months to arrive in the Middle East.

Before leaving the US, she put furniture and photographs in storage (reclaimed nearly three decades later) and gave away everything else, including toys and clothing.

I am awestruck because we seldom helped.

My mum shuttled us off to summer camp one year, packing while we were singing Kumbaya and roasting marshmallows.

When she filled boxes for Holland I spent part of the summer in England with friends, returning to a strange new home in a foreign country.

As kids we learned how difficult it was to save belongings, since, with each move, our mother would toss away most of our belongings.

And this was ages before Marie Kondo.

Kondo is the modern guru of tidying and paring down one’s possessions.

So popular is her worldview that the word “to kondo” has entered our American lexicon.

It means: to become (or perform being) tidy.

My mother’s tack was to slough off unwanted flotsam, while Kondo’s approach is to ask how you feel about your belongings—and how they feel about you.

Feelings bubble to the surface when you pore over photos and record albums that have stories to tell.

This week we’ve sorted and sifted and chucked armloads of stories belonging to my husband’s parents as we ready the family home for sale in New Jersey.

Every stick of furniture and every tea cup has a story, and husband, daughter and son listened to each story with respect.

I heard stories of walking with Grammie to the Library to fetch a summer book, and how she helped the kids rinse off beach-sand under the spray of the ice-cold backyard shower before coming into the house.

We found Grampie’s grade report from college along with old-fashioned cuff-links he would wear to work on Wall Street.

And we discovered greeting cards each had written to the other, on birthdays and anniversaries, always with the same sentiment: we’ve been together for years and years, and you are the best thing that ever happened to me.

Sometimes the cards were drawn by Grammie: a flower or a bird in watercolor, lined in ink.

(…and a fork with E for Emery)

I found a stack of tablets with her drawings on a shelf in her closet, along with watercolors, pastel chalks and charcoal sticks.

Grampie discovered a creative niche in blacksmithing, and he hand-forged hooks that he hung for his wife’s plants.

We’ve saved the photos and the cards, and reclaimed some of the hooks.

Slowly the house becomes a little less cluttered and the piles of trash grow higher, yet the stories remain.

Once the packing is done, the estate experts arrive to carry off the mid-century furniture and table lamps.

We will leave the house and carry with us the memories forged over a half-century.


16 July 2018

For Scott, Olivia and L. Teal





About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in allmyrelations, american indian, authenticity, communication, family values, framing, memory, native american, Native Science, press, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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