Before my wife and I were married, over 21 years ago, she informed me of a number of things, telling me she didn’t want me laboring over any misconceptions about her. She was totally and brutally honest about herself… and that forced me to do my best to do the same, and what we said will remain between us – mostly. She did tell me that she was required, by her job, or at least by every job she’d had in twenty years, to be a pack-rat. She also told me that, any time she threw the only copy of something out, or any prop item, she invariably needed it, even if it hadn’t been required for years… and that turned out to be true in the first years of our marriage, and I’m not about to go into details, except to say that she was right.
The past twenty years have confirmed that she was absolutely right. She’s had to keep a copy of every program on which she has sung, every journal article or review she’s ever written, all the documentation on every opera or musical theatre performance she has directed, all to prove, time and time again, in the name of accountability and proving qualifications, that she can do and has done what she’s done. Part of this was due to the endless tenure process and part has been because of post-tenure review, and part has been because of accreditation reviews, and part because of changes in college deans… and so forth. Part is because she teaches singing, and because certain sheet music, particularly in the area of classical music, is getting harder and harder to find, and because different students have different needs. So, over the years, the numbers of file cabinets holding sheet music have expanded.
But, unhappily, and sometimes humorously, it doesn’t stop there. Because she directs a grossly under-budgeted university opera program, our basement storeroom has become over the years the “auxiliary” prop and set storeroom, containing those items she has personally purchased for productions. Most have been used at least twice and some time and time again, but they don’t go to the Music Department storeroom because that storage area isn’t secure and smaller items vanish. And, frankly, she doesn’t want to spend her own money twice for things the university should have purchased in the first place.
When we moved, or attempted to reduce our volume of stuff in every summer’s “spring cleaning,” I’ve asked more than once if we really need this 1920 telephone or three battered but ornate boxes, or the three canes, or the closetful of dresses not in her size, or… and the answer is invariably, “No. I’ll need that sometime.” And so I nod and replace it and try to find a way to make more space for the props and other items she purchased personally for the last semester’s show.
For the most part, except for the times she’s borrowed my fedora or my Stetson, or my old trench coat, or the time she used the lower family room furniture, all the items are generally part of her pack-rat collection and go back in the storeroom after each production. Last summer, however, when we were cleaning the storeroom, I came across the old leather briefcase that she’d bought me for my birthday years ago – the old battered one that she’d replaced with a new one the previous fall and thought, “We don’t need this.” And I threw it out.
Two days ago, she called me from her office and said, “You remember your old leather case… the one I gave you before the latest one… It’s perfect for the show. I need a battered leather case…”
Like she said, you never need it until you’ve thrown it out.