Posted by: zhak39 | October 15, 2005

Agony of De Feet

I never moved out of my parents’ house; rather, I just sort of drifted away. During my college years, my parents were like the moon for my tides, allowing me the freedom to go out in the world, drawing me back with their stability and security during vacations and downtimes. It was an odd time for me, not knowing whether my world was still connected with theirs, not knowing on what part of the shore I should settle, the cove, the dune, the dark, dark sea.

And like tide lines at the beach, I left evidence in flotsam and jetsam where ever I briefly alighted. I left books, old clothes, photo albums, cookbooks like driftwood strewn in my wake. My parents were very patient with me during my twenties. It had to be irritating to them to be responsible for all this ‘stuff.’ Even I recognized that I left ‘stuff’ everywhere to give me an excuse to come back. I didn’t have the wherewithal to understand that I needed no excuse, no rationale. All I needed to bring them was me.

Before there was a philosophy, a movement, a lifestyle, or even a show of questionable taste on Fox TV, my parents stood at the headwaters of Simple Living. They lived within their means, they accumulated only what was necessary, valued material goods for their use. My mother gardened, canned, preserved. My father was a sparing steward of land and resources. So it had to be difficult for them to deal responsibly with the debri I left behind. What do you do with 36 posters when it’s time to strip the walls and paint? What is the value of a grinning Bucky Dent, a Brother’s Hildebrandt rendition of Aragorn, a black and white portrait of the Knack when the 70’s have slipped into the 80’s edging into the ’90s. Is it junk? Is it valuable? Whose decision is it to relegate it to closet, attic, burn barrel?

And was I any help? During those years I was drifting from one apartment to another, trying to stay afloat in the waters of service work–the boat along with the economy was sinking.

It took my mother 20 years but she has been successful at thoughtfully eliminating the clutter of raising three children in a centuries old farmhouse. All the rooms now are airy and light, the walls tastefully decorated with her own wonderful art, the furniture leaves the openness of each chamber unimpeded. There is a feeling of lightness and movement in that house, unlike the drag consummate consumers draw around and to themselves. The air around my parents feels buoyant, like gravity and inertia have lessened effect.

But still, 20-something years since I drifted away, some flotsam floats to the surface. Last summer when I visited, a T-shirt with a simple hand drawn design and the words ‘Agony of DeFeet’ lay on the guest bed in my old room. It came from a twenty-four hour relay race I participated in as a high school sophomore in 1979, a fundraiser for some forgotten need. I showed it to my brother who shook his head and wondered how it is that certain things still existed, still drifted ashore.

I thought about that time in my life. I remember so clearly staying up for twenty-four hours , rousing runners, encouraging the exhausted athletes, huddling in a sleeping bag with a stop watch and flashlight under the flood of the Milky Way. I remembered the intensity of having a cause, the exhiliration of working toward making a positive contribution. I remembered the thrill of victory.

I don’t know, I wanted to tell my brother. I don’t know why this or that was valued, was saved, was preserved. Maybe these things, this stuff just keeps bobbing along, arising and receding until we’re ready to acknowledge them, to understand their significance. Maybe these things pop back up to remind us where we were so that we can better get our bearings on where we are now.


  1. Betcha it still fits, doesn’t it?

    Yeah, yeah, yeah.

  2. Not quite like it used to.

  3. what a great story, well written.

  4. Wonderful.

  5. Very, very nice…thank you.

  6. Such positive comments! My head is swelling and now I can’t fit it into my t-shirt!

  7. Your writing touches me so deeply. Being your sister and having shared history, your beautiful honoring of mom and dad is not lost on me…thank you!

  8. Beautifully told story.Love you. We will send you some more of your “debris”.

  9. …and I will drift back carrying just a smile and leaving but a memory.

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