Just Sayin’/Jane Nordberg

In response to our impending relocation to Lansing next month, most of what was formerly known as “free time” in the Nordberg household has morphed from sewing and woodworking to packing and purging.

“P&P” has taken over our lives in the form of cardboard boxes and plastic containers staring us in the face every time we come home from work. It can be daunting in a house as big as the Money Pit, but the trick is to do a little each night. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway, as the clock is ticking ever closer toward moving day.

As I open box after box emerging from their less-traversed landscapes in the attic and basement, the question I keep asking is “Why did we ever keep this?”

A box marked “wedding” did contain some good stuff from that blessed event 23 years ago greeting cards from friends and family, even an uncashed check. (If you’re reading this, Aunt Mary, we’re sorry for messing up your accounting). Our guest book gleaned some spot-on snippets of our guests’ personalities, like that of Erik’s paternal grandmother (“I’d like to write more, but I got here late”) to his sister, a lawyer (“Trip and fall on your gown? Call me!”) to my dad’s sage advice (“A hug will always do it.”)

Sadly, one of those crappy ballpoint pens with the big feather attached to it was also in the box, shedding feather detritus over all the other contents. After my impromptu sneezing fit, I returned to the box to discover a turquoise folder containing every possible detail of the wedding planning, from where we bought our rings to notes from our multiple meetings with the caterer. Even worse, a dehydrated broken rubber band had failed in its mission to constrict a pack of guest response cards. Why did I need to know now, two decades later, that my then-boss would prefer the trout amandine as his meal choice? Out they went, broken rubber band and all.

A box marked “Jane’s office, various” lived up to its vague name, with contents that included a silver charm bracelet I thought was lost forever. Given to me when I was about 8 years old, the original charms included a canary in a cage, a typewriter, vacuum cleaner, bagpipes, and most intriguing at the time, an electric guitar. Over the years, I collected more charms from exotic locales such as a bear from Jasper, Alberta, a slot machine from Vegas, and a gold miner from Virginia City, Nevada. Now boasting 21 charms, the bracelet is virtually unwearable due to its weight and the fact that it’d be a form of acupuncture to do so, but it sure was good to see it again, and I vowed immediately to myself to put it in a safer place.

Both of us have had our share of moving house, and this is our fifth move as a married couple. Each time, we strive to find the right terminal destination for our belongings, whether it’s a friend who needs a sleeper sofa, an organization that could use a working computer or printer, or more often than not, the charity shop. Most times, we agree on what should go where. Most times.

Down from the attic last weekend came a U-Haul wardrobe box neither of us could remember. It probably had traveled with us from downstate Madison Heights to South Bend, Ind. to Houghton to Calumet directly from the truck to the attic, and directly out again. It was time for the big reveal.

I gasped aloud. Six suits from my legal secretary days stared back at me, from a subdued navy to a tomato red to a pastel striped jacket I’m pretty sure I wore to a writing seminar in 1987. Think Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl” and you have the right era. I’m amazed the giant shoulder pads were able to be contained by four thin walls of cardboard.

Alongside the suits was a large white plastic garment bag concealing a fancy padded hanger. I knew immediately what it was, and I knew it was going to be trouble.

Unzipping the bag confirmed it was my wedding dress, beautiful for that day in 1990 with long lacy sleeves, about a million covered buttons down the back and at least 20 yards of cream faux-satin polyester.

“Hey, look, it’s my wedding dress,” I said to my husband, without thinking, and immediately did a V-8 headslap.

“Oh, it’s beautiful,” he said, coming over to admire the satin beast. “I hope you’re going to keep it.”

“You know, it’s served its purpose,” I said, cautiously. “Maybe someone else will want it.”

You would have thought I’d have suggested his Bruce Springsteen vinyl records go to Goodwill.

“How can you get rid of your wedding dress?” He said, not without a note of hurt.

“I don’t need it, Honey,” I said sweetly. “I have you.”

My ploy didn’t work.

“I just don’t understand how someone who is so interested in history and so sentimental can get rid of her wedding dress,” he said. Presumably he’s noticed I’ve kept items of virtually no value before for sentimental reasons, and was baffled by my decision-making.

“On top of that, you’re so good with fabric,” he continued,” You could make something out of it.”

“Make what, exactly?” I asked, knowing full well that anything I ever made from this wedding dress would look just like, well, remnants of a wedding dress.

“I don’t know,” he offered, knowing his argument was failing. “A tablecloth. Pillows, maybe.”

I stared. I blinked. Then I re-zipped the garment bag, removed the hanger from the box, placed it gently but firmly in a garbage bag marked Charity, and tied it shut.

“It’s going,” I said. “I’d rather see it go as is than cut it up into pieces and unusable for someone else.”

Understand I have no daughters, no granddaughters, not even any nieces. A good friend has two beautiful slender daughters, but the weight of all that satin would send them to the chiropractor. Additionally, this is not an heirloom dress that was passed down to me. I bought it new June 11, 1990 from Lace and Satin in Royal Oak. I know that from looking through the now-recycled wedding folder, but I dare say I won’t ever need that information ever again.

Admitting defeat, albeit bitterly, the hubs made a parting shot. “I just don’t want you to regret it someday.”

Translate that to mean, “If you decide you want that wedding dress back next month, I’m not driving ten hours to retrieve it.”

I’m good with that. It’s been a full week and I have had no such urges. But I really did like that sleeper sofa…