Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Into the Closet

Those of us suckled by 1930s and '40s radio were the fortunate ones. Yes, there were also movies, magazines and comic books to feed our fevered imaginations. But it was weekly radio programs, in their repeated time slot, that became a kind of clock as well as the scheduled skits we all knew were coming and delighted in when they arrived as if to reaffirm our small grip on life.

I believe it was Tuesday night at 9:30 that I could count on Fibber McGee & Molly to appear in my visual field. The most enduring and endearing of their running gags was his opening of the hall closet. Staring into the gothic design of the radio speaker I could see the cacophony of spillage shattering and clattering down. We anticipated it and were never disappointed. His clutter was our clutter. It struck the note that our family was normal after all.

I thought of McGee’s closet the other day remembering that clutter is a form of normalcy. This past Sunday we resolved to tackle our den closet, long a repository of journals, travel brochures gathered from trips, maps, postcards, giftwrap, bubble wrap, more than a dozen empty boxes perfect for presents we no longer give, picture frames, hopelessly-stained sweaters, extra bookshelves, macramé, old cameras and an assortment of cables and heavy wire, once needed for the installation of some high-tech gadgetry. The latter belongs to that inventory of arcane equipment, there only because I'm afraid I'd be scolded for throwing out something so essential thereby revealing my ignorance of how anything works.

There is a category of “stuff” which resists dumping. Some carry a back-story deserving of another go round. There’s the sea-shell from alf-Moon Bay, the fossil from the Bay iof FundyHal;Half-Moon Bay, the placemat from Bruges with the drawing of the restaurant on it, the fossils from the Bay of Fundy and the collections of beer mats from God-knows-where. Years ago there were stacks of National Geographics, too precious to throw out but impossible to store without having the building tilt. After a while every treasure loses its shine and yields to the joy of weightlessness.
Molly used to say, No, no not the hall closet and Fibber McGee would mutter, I gotta get that cleaned out one of these days. One of these days never happened. In one episode a burglar confronted the two of them and McGee told him the family silver was right through that door. He was then buried under the avalanche of family history accompanied by great sound effects ending with a drum roll.

Maybe we all need our closets to keep the skeletons company for a while. But the three Hefty bags full of our chronicle have now been hauled away and internalized anyway.

In creating a canvas of idyllic small-town America recurrent characters showed up on the Fibber McGee & Molly show who still roam around in my head: Mr. Gildersleeve, Judge Hooker, Mayor LaTrivia, Mr. Peavey, the druggist, who always said, Well now, I wouldn’t say that and the Old-Timer whose line was, Pretty good Johnny but that ain’t the way I heard it. I still hear them all closeted within.

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