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In our own backyard... Cleaning the garage is a labor of love

Cn Labor Day weekend, while others were out spending time at the lake with their families, going water skiing, sucking on watermelon and simply savoring the closing throes of summer, I was sweating away in the garage with my sleeves rolled up.

Cn Labor Day weekend, while others were out spending time at the lake with their families, going water skiing, sucking on watermelon and simply savoring the closing throes of summer, I was sweating away in the garage with my sleeves rolled up.

It was a personal choice. Ken and I decided to just stay home and work on "projects." For some, that might mean canning pickles, setting out the fall bulbs or splitting firewood. For us, it meant cleaning out the garage.

Since we moved into our house in stages while it was still under construction, it seemed that the boxes of household goods, seasonal equipment and memorabilia stored in the garage never quite got as thorough a going through as they should have.

For the first six years after we moved in, for example, I could never quite put my finger on my complete set of Christmas dishes and had to be content with simply putting out the fancy cups and saucers during holiday time. And when our kids came home and wanted to take a look at their high school yearbooks - well, forget about that!

Oh, there were summers when we actually launched in to the big pile of boxes in the garage, only to tire of it midway through the afternoon, throw everything back into them and go out to dinner instead!

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That only served to compound the issue. One storage container often was marked "Christmas decorations" on one side - and "snowmobile helmets" on the other! It was mass chaos, and much of what we had stored in the garage was never used - simply because we had no idea where it was.

Last weekend was when the rubber hit the road, however. In a weak moment, both Ken and I agreed that cleaning out the garage was the ideal project for an idle, three-day weekend.

Ken was wise enough to realize that the two of us have very different ideas of going about cleaning the garage. While I think of the garage as a storage area for precious memorabilia, Ken sees it more as a "staging area for the dump."

We'd long since discovered that if we tried to go through the storage boxes together, Ken would soon be tossing out things right and left - and I'd be left in a state of nervous anxiety.

So it was I attacked the anonymous storage containers in the garage pretty much single-handedly while Ken did the heavy lifting and toted "castoffs" to the dump.

And to be sure, it was an emotional experience. I couldn't help but feel a giant lump in my throat as I came across my son's first tiny pair of hockey skates and my daughter's first set of pink ballet slippers.

I was amazed when I discovered I'd kept a handful of poems I'd pounded out on my grandma's and grandpa's old Underwood typewriter as a child, as well as the first tattered Bible I'd received in church as an eight-year-old. And you can imagine my astonishment when I opened an old scrapbook and revealed an old pink office memo that read, "Ken Johnson called. He mentioned he'd met you at Fond du Lac College on Wednesday, wondered if you're married, and if not, he said he'd like to talk with you more. Give him a call."

There were old love letters, report cards - both mine and my children's - and a shark costume that I'd painstakingly stitched for my son one Halloween.

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Because I took so much time lovingly going over all of the contents of the boxes stashed away in the garage, I ended up working in the garage for three whole days, and Ken made four trips to the landfill. But to be sure, I held on to all of the things that mattered the most (though now they are sorted and cataloged so we know exactly where to find them!).

When we were visiting with others over coffee following church Sunday morning, I casually mentioned we'd been cleaning out our garage over the weekend.

"Why, do you know that I've held on to every one of my college text books," commented a gentlemen some 15-20 years my senior, "and my wife and I have saved every Christmas ornament we've ever gotten since we were first married. Our adult kids took me aside not long ago and told us they don't want us to move out of our house - because they don't want to have to deal with it all!"

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