The other day in a comment to another blogger, I said something on the order of how I think life is cyclical. We go from the intuitive state of children to the increasingly rational world of the adult and then, as we retire and age (or age and retire, depending on how anxious we are to do so) and get on to the next stage, we start evolving back into the state we were in as children. We perhaps start to forget details of the present in favor of remembering vividly details of our past. Our present seems to fall into an increasing sense of disorder as our past comes back with a strange clarity. In the farther stages of dementia, this seems to be true as well.
Judging by the fragmented comments made by my sister who is experiencing the journey of Alzheimer’s, she seems to be going backwards through her life. In her mind, she was for awhile once again married to a husband from whom she had been divorced for twenty-five years. A year later, she was talking about her high school boyfriend as though he was waiting for her; and this year, when given a baby doll, she sat rocking it and calling it Judy. Eleven years older than me, I’m sure she was remembering me as a baby. More proof of my theory, because she has had three children and five grandchildren since she rocked me in that long-ago rocking chair, most of whom she doesn’t remember.
All of this speculating is a roundabout method of preparing you for what I really want to talk about, and that is the topic of “chaos.” As we age, our rational mind seems to give way to intuition–forgetting details like what we are driving to town to do or what we came from the bedroom to the living room to find. Instead, we wander from task to task as we get distracted by whatever our eye falls upon, much as we did as children.
In a similar fashion, objects collect on the table-like headboard of my bed and on my night tables. Have you ever seen the room of a teenager? A perfect example of chaos. Dirty clothes and caked ice cream dishes are swept under the bed, dirty clothes are in piles mixed in with the clean ones delivered by mom a week earlier, magazines, electrical equipment, soccer balls and school books all seem to be placed in the same category and spread evenly over the surfaces of the room.
The bedroom or playroom of a toddler or child seems to follow the same organizational plan: Leggos, the detached limbs of G.I. Joes or Barbies, coloring books, plastic kid-sized furniture, trikes, blocks, kiddie computer games, unmatched socks, clothes outgrown months ago, plastic trucks and assorted game pieces from kiddie games cover the floor as though organized by a tornado into the perfect organizational plan of a child: chaos.
So it was in the house of my oldest sister. Every year, more piles appeared in her bedroom. Her kitchen drawers were a jumble of knives, jewelry, old electrical receipts, diamond rings, half full medicine bottles, plastic lids to butter tubs, photographs, drawings her children had done twenty years before, unused postal stamps and corroded batteries.
When I visited a few months before she went into a managed care facility, hoping I could facilitate her staying in her house for at least another year, I reorganized her house–– putting labels on all her drawers. In the bedroom, I sorted out a tangle of necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets. In doing so, I discovered 23 watches–all dysfunctional.
“Betty, why do you have so many watches?”
“Oh, they all stopped working.”
“Did you exchange the batteries?”
“Oh, you can do that?”
Now I look at the boxes of slides and photos of the art work of my husband and me–sorted and condensed from four boxes into two boxes, then abandoned unfinished when I needed to use the dining room table to entertain guests. Now the unresolved mess resides between the bed and the closet in my bedroom. Sigh.
There are junk drawers I’ve been shoving things into for 15 years thinking one day I’ll sort them. Boxes of miscellaneous papers I packed up 15 years ago to bring to Mexico still sit untouched in my garage.
Like the rest of the universe, having come from the chaos of childhood, I seem to be returning to it and I wonder what the solution will be. Perhaps, as many of my friends have, I will start shedding the accumulations of a lifetime and simplify my life so there is less in it to be transformed into chaos. Or, perhaps as has been my pattern for the past 15 years, since divesting myself of most of my possessions to move to Mexico, I will continue to collect thousands of little items for my art collages, dozens of bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings–even though I wear only a few favorites.
Perhaps I’ll continue to buy the books of friends, the paintings of talented Mexican artists, huipiles from the market, woven purses and alebrijes from beach vendors, gelato makers from the garage sales of friends.
I have a special fondness for one basket vendor who sells the lovely baskets made by his family in Guerrero. I have them in every shape–square, obelisk, round, rectangular–as well as every size from coin purse to three feet tall. Yet I keep buying them because I admire his perseverance. For the fifteen years I’ve been here, he has traversed the carretera from Chapala to Jocotepec, laden front, back and to each side with these baskets. He wears five straw hats piled neatly one on top of the other on his head. Baskets nest within other baskets or are threaded onto a long cord and worn diagonally over his chest.
He is a a master of organization–and to query about any basket as one sits at at table in the Ajijic plaza will invite his ceremony as he divests himself of baskets to display them. Soon the floor around your table will be covered in so many baskets it seems impossible that one man has been carrying them up and down the ten miles between the towns on this side of the lake–all day and for years long before I moved here. His is an incredible sense of organization that is the opposite of chaos, and in admiration, if I am unable to persuade visiting friends to buy his baskets, I always buy something myself.
Back home, I fill one with outgrown underwear, another with scarves, another with old keys and padlocks I may one day need. It is as though his organization rubs off on me as I fill baskets, instilling some order into a life potentially chaotic–but at the moment held within the confines of normalcy.
Ten years ago, my other sister opened my junk drawer in my kitchen and declared, “There is no excuse for anyone to have a drawer like this.” Because I know of no one who does not have a drawer like that, I was somewhat surprised, and was especially surprised because before her visit I had more or less organized my junk drawer.
But now I look around and realize I have a number of those drawers. In spite of the basket vendor’s good example, my sense or organization seems to be veering toward having a special drawer to thrust categories of things into: batteries, items of clothing, kitchen tools, jewelry. Controlled chaos––the way of the universe and certainly the seeming course of our lives. For some of us, at least.
(If you are dying to make out exactly what is in these drawers, clicking on the photos will enlarge your view. Snoopy!)