For the first time in my life, a tear formed in my eye, clinging to my lower lid, hesitant about running its course over my cheek, as I gazed forlornly into a dumpster, examining the recently-discarded contents within.
Yes, staring into a large garbage dumpster made me cry. Call me a softy.
“What the hell?” I pondered.
In a pile at least a half-a-meter deep begrudgingly sat dog-eared birthday greetings, yellowed Christmas cards, and shabby anniversary blessings. One read “Happy 60th, My Love!”
“Shit” was all I heard seep from between my lips. Nobody was present, so I uttered it again, ever so softly, incredulous about all I was witnessing.
Within, surrounding the pile of cards, scattered indiscriminately, were various other forms of erstwhile memorabilia, heirlooms, and kids toys. Countless tattered children’s drawings filled the gaps between larger neglected items.
It all became… rubbish.
In just a matter of moments, such formerly precious keepsakes had been hauled discourteously from the farm house nearby, the home of an elderly couple for five decades, and simply tossed, without afterthought, into the dumpster. There were no final goodbyes; no tear-jerking farewells.
In the blink of an eye, the relevance and sentimentality of each item had been snuffed out. With each layer of successive “trash” brought out, whatever was underlying each growing pile faded away, having lost any worth.
Just like that. Gone.
Like the animated characters from Toy Story, did those toys kick and scream when carried out, utterly terrified that their end was near?
I wondered. Tormented my soul became.
The precipice-hugging tear now teetered, languidly oozing its way between my lower eyelashes, all-too-ready to seek its intended path.
Numb and indifferent, the calloused laborers who’d been hired to help clear out the house didn’t care what the contents of each haul were. They had a job to do, the type of undertaking that doesn’t allow for sentiment, for the folks of the farmstead had already moved out days before, having been whisked away to a nursing home, the husband infirm, the wife suffering from Alzheimer’s.
I was simply there on a visit with my sister to see how the remodeling of their newly purchased property was going. Naturally, I never expected to be brought to tears there.
Presumably, family had taken all possessions of value—apparently cash value, not sentimental value. Relics that brought dollar signs to the minds of their beholders could be readily converted into a new iPad or the latest wide-screen TV, stuff that apparently has more worth.
At least that’s what many of us think.
Without intentionally doing so, thoughts of my own mementos immediately pummeled my mind: remembrances of my childhood, my teen years, and even my college days, stuff that I’ve long kept in tightly sealed plastic storage containers, worn-at-the-corners, dust-covered shoeboxes, and shabby, over-stuffed manila envelopes.
“Why did I keep such ‘trash’? I queried internally, skeptically. “Why do any of us?”
“Is it all to meet the same feeling-less fate?” I cheerlessly speculated. “Will some stranger unsympathetically toss such dear tokens of my past into a dumpster some day?”
“Will anyone care?” I continued in contemplation.
No longer resistant, the tear that had held on, still not sure if it was willing to express itself fully, leapt from my lower eye lid, ready to lead the way for others to follow. A trendsetter it was.
With elbows resting on the edge of the dumpster, I leaned my face slightly over the edge, resting my chin on my forearm, and had a good cry. Subsequent tears dropped, unhesitatingly this time, into the dumpster, onto the contents below, contents that would no longer be of value, just as the dumpster tears that momentarily came to rest alongside it all, their fate, their worth, and their meaning just as fleeting.