January 1, 2014
Well, my eldest sister has organized
what she calls "The Great 365 Day Purge of 2014." This
sister...both of my sisters, in fact...are incredibly organized, with
beautifully-decorated homes, always pristine. I suspect this sister
of mine alphabetizes her daily to-do list and our middle sister rises
at five AM for her Pilates class before heading off to the business
she owns with her husband.
I do not share this penchant for
organization with my siblings. On good days, I make my bed and brush
my teeth (hair is optional). But the rules of participation are
simple enough for even the queen of chaos to agree to: You must
commit to ridding yourself of one thing a day, every day, for a year.
Of course, I signed on immediately. I
like these sorts of things, these attempts at self-improvement.
Turning over a new tree, as my
brother likes to say (His to-do lists are computerized). Just
thinking about this project makes me feel lighter. Freer somehow.
Perhaps a smidgen organized.
Apparently pets are ineligible for
giveaway, which is unfortunate because between five pets; the litter;
two scoopers (blue and white); the forty-pound bags of cat food which
we use to feed not only our own felines, one of whom adopted us three
months ago, but also five neighborhood friends who stop by for a
daily snack...between the leashes and the collars; the dog licenses
and the rolls of blue scented poop bags that invariably fall out of
my coat pocket and unfurl all the way down the street while the dog
is yanking off my right arm trying to get to a squirrel...between the
flea and tick medicine and Blind Cat's laxative and tummy pills
(don't ask)...between the food and the water bowls and the
upside-down lid my son uses to give Grey Cat Half & Half every
morning before school...between the dog beds and the cages and the
vet and boarding bills...Between all of that, I'd easily get through
And getting rid of the dog hair in my
house would take me through March.
But, alas, it would get rather quiet
'round here if we were suddenly to divest ourselves of three cats, an
elderly dog and an ingrate of a puppy, who sits on the bench in my
library, barking at the mailman at 3:30 every afternoon.
So today, in the spirit of revolutions
and good intentions, I will put into the recycling bin a letter from
The White House. The letter was written in May of 1991 and was in
response to this letter, also to be recycled, written by me, at the
arrogant, untempered age of twenty-five:
Dear President Bush,
I would like to commend you on your
education initiative introduced last week. I have always had an
interest in education and am currently involved with education at its
most basic level-that of literacy: Through the Northern Virginia
Literacy Council, I became a certified ESOL instructor and now spend
two evenings a week teaching English to a woman from Afghanistan. By
becoming personally involved with teaching, I've been able to see the
benefits of volunteering one's time. Your efforts at involving
parents and the business community can have a similar effect of
bringing the nation together to find solutions to the problems of
I am impressed with your resolve to
learn computers. I believe that your choice in computers was a wise
one. With that selection, you spoke to all of America. You told
America's children that computers and other technological courses are
important - important enough to warrant even the President's
attention. This should influence more students to pursue the hard
sciences in their studies. You spoke to the working class. Again, by
setting aside time in your busy schedule, you've demonstrated to
working Americans that continued education is important. Finally, and
equally important, you told individuals who think they're too old,
that it is never too late to learn.
Mr. President, I would be honored to
offer my services to help you meet your goal of learning more about
computers. After completing my masters degree six months ago, I moved
to the area only to find job prospects gloomy. Rather than succumbing
to the forces of the economy, I decided to start my own consulting
firm. While starting a business is always difficult, I've been doing
fairly well: I'm currently working with a former Senator as well as
the Department of Energy and expect that in a year or two I'll have a
good, albeit small, operation.
My work with the "former Senator"
was strictly secretarial and my stint at the DOE lasted no more than
two Saturdays when I taught administrative assistants how to use
WordPerfect. Five months later, my fiance and I moved back to Ohio,
broke, hungry, and dejected.
Once home, and ensconced in the safety
of my parents' home (and food supply!), I wrote a letter to a local
cosmetics company, offering to "take them international." I
should have done my homework: At the time I mailed my letter, this
company had a presence in every major international market.
The company didn't bother responding to
Perhaps they kept it tucked into a file
cabinet, bringing it out occasionally for a good laugh.
I kept the White House's response in a
steamer trunk my father made me, among my journals and letters and
hand-made cards my children have given me.
Thank you for your message about
President Bush's interest in learning to use a computer.
As a result of his comments, the
President has received many kind offers of assistance such as yours,
and he appreciates your thoughtfulness. However, the White House has
a computer support staff, and this office will be responsible for
providing training to him.
With the President's best wishes...
Reading these letters...knowing others
will be reading them here...watching my children read them and
laugh...revealing myself to the world in this way makes me cringe.
It makes me laugh as well: Practically
a luddite today, whose cell phone is likely as old as President Bush
(the elder); embracing the local market rather than international
business, the letter is a map of how much I've changed twenty-two
years. Now, I'm a working-class American who often thinks
myself too old to try something new.
I take comfort in the fact that I'm not
the only one who has done this sort of thing: My husband wrote to
Margaret Thatcher's office, hoping to line up an interview when he
went to Europe as a college junior. (He, too, was turned down. He,
too, kept the letter. And when he shared it with our children, they
mocked him as well.)
And I'm somewhat happy to share
the letter with my children, knowing that when they do something
equally arrogant, they'll be able to look at their parents and know
they're not the first to make this blunder. Nor will they be the
So it is today that I recycle these
letters (and the White House envelope as well).
Just for today, they have served me
well, reminding me of the overly-confident person I once was,
allowing me to share a glimpse of my past life with my children.
Let The Great 365 Day Purge of 2014
Kelly Garriott Waite on Google+
Labels: Consumption, essay, Great 365 Day Purge