My brother and I were waiting to catch the light rail after watching the US men’s soccer team win their sixth Gold Cup. Soccer is one of the things that brings us together as siblings—along with being lifelong Democrats. While the former made for a great day out, the latter ruined the patriotic buzz I had going on. “Time to go home, go to bed, and see what fresh hell Trump has visited upon us tomorrow morning,” he said.
People come and go. Stuff is forever. I’m not materialistic in the sense that I care about how expensive or exclusive a thing is. Instead, I attach a lot of emotional meaning to stuff. It’s what makes something like decade-old clothing that’s out of style and will never fit again hard to throw out.
Now that I’m moving out of the Casa Barcelos, I’m going to have to share a little under 800 square feet of living space with my boyfriend. I probably have more than 800 square feet worth of stuff.
I’m not saying I’m a hoarder, but I do have a problem with letting go of things, especially physical things. Since I can’t keep it all, let me give some of the victims of Closet Purge 2k17 the fond farewell they deserve.
Orange slip dress (early 2000s):
Bought at some Forever 21-esque store at Eastridge Mall (it might have been Styles?), this dress led to what I’ve since dubbed Modesty Mole. I was pretty flat chested in my teens, so cleavage wasn’t a problem. Or so I thought. I bought this dress for a dance (I think?), and by “I bought this dress,” I mean, “My mom went shopping with me to approve of and pay for this dress.”
She did not approve. I didn’t like any other dresses at the store. She said it was too low cut. I thought there was nothing to reveal. She pointed out a mole on my chest that apparently had never seen the light of day before. We eventually compromised: I could have the dress, but she would alter it by shortening the straps to cover the scandalous blemish.
I’ve used the Modesty Mole as a metric for appropriate tops ever since. I guess I’ll always have the story, even if I don’t have the dress anymore.
Brown corduroy blazer (January 2005)
Winter 2004-5 was a rough time for me and my family. I was Problem Child #1 after dropping out of community college because I thought I knew everything. By the following spring I would be out of the house and beginning the year when I didn’t see or even speak to my parents.
Before that, though, was the winter I spent on Terceira Island. My Madrinha Julia, my mom’s mom, went from spending the afternoon working in her garden on Sao Jorge to being helicoptered out to Terceira because our island doesn’t have an ICU. My mother is an only child, so she wasted no time in booking a flight to the Azores to see her mother in case it was her last chance. Since I wasn’t doing anything productive with my life, I was voluntold that I’d be joining her.
That began the coldest and ultimately cruelest winter of my life. Madrinha spent Christmas and the New Year hooked up to so many wires and tubes that she couldn’t speak. I spent it trying to cheer Mae and Padrinho Fernandinho up when I was with them. When I had a few moments alone, I spent those feeling the desperately pathetic loneliness that comes of being nineteen, facing the idea of mortality for the first time, and being surrounded by people are decades older than you who just don’t understand.
I remember seeing this jacket in a shop window every day on the walk home to the hostel from the hospital. Eventually my mother saw through my rather transparent longing and bought it for me. It felt good to have something new and warm when I felt surrounded by old and cold things. It felt good to have a respite from the Mother-Daughter Cold War. Whatever resentment we felt toward one another was nothing next to how much we needed one another as we coped with seeing Madrinha connected to countless tubes and wires, how much we had to work together to keep Padrinho Fernandinho’s spirits up as Madrinha moved out of the ICU… and how much we clung to one another when Madrinha’s recovery crumbled and she died while we away from Terceira visiting Sao Jorge.
After that, I couldn’t wear anything but black until I got back to California. My family was briefly united in the face of our grief, but eventually the cold war picked up where it left off. I packed some things up and left. The brown blazer went with me and came back with me when I moved back in and went back to school. I can’t remember the last time I wore it, but getting rid of it feels like a betrayal of the kindness my mother did to my bratty, insufferable 19-year-old self.
49ers hoodie (2007):
I’m a huge Bay Area sports fan. I’ve support everything from minor league baseball (woo San Jose Giants!) and lacrosse (RIP San Jose Stealth) to the San Francisco Giants and the the San Jose Sharks. But long before the Giants had a habit of winning the World Series every other year, even before the 1991 expansion brought the Sharks to town, the San Francisco 49ers were my gateway drug to sports fandom. I vaguely remember the tail end of the glorious 80s, but the 49ers of early 90s taught me to love sports.
The fact that I bought this thing during the Mike Nolan era should tell you just how much patience I’ve had for the running gag that has been the last decade or so of 49ers football. I watched every week as our offensive line left Alex Smith to get massacred, despaired of the fact that Frank Gore would never win the Super Bowl he deserved, and otherwise weathered the era that Wikipedia filed under the subheading “Struggles.”
I rejoiced during the Harbaugh era and tolerated Kaepernick’s douchery (he only became a #wokebae later on) because I believed it would return us to the glory days of relevance once more. Instead, it all fell apart when Jed York couldn’t handle a bigger ego than his own in the building. After teaching me to love all those years ago, the Niners had now taught me to hate. When Harbaugh left, I swore never to spent a minute watching a game or a penny on any team merch ever again.
I had (and still have) way too many hoodies, but purging myself of this one was a no-brainer.
Now the only Niners clothes I own are one of the obnoxious gold jackets from the 80s and a throwback Steve Young jersey, artifacts of a happier time before the Yorks ran my first favorite sports franchise into the ground.
Letting go is hard. Of people, of stuff, whatever. I’m not very good at it. But writing about it? That means never having to let go—without wasting (physical) space. That’s a compromise I can make.