When I refer to 47 yards, I mean cubic yards. A cubic yard is the measurement of a box which is three feet by three feet by three feet. The dumpster was seven feet wide, eight feet high and twenty-three and one-half feet long. With swinging doors in the back that opened to its full width, it could have easily held four square-dancer-bedecked old Plymouths parked end to end and stacked on top one another. By the time we were done, we had filled and emptied it four times at a cost of $500 per dump. We spent $2000, physically exerted ourselves harder than we had since the Disco era, and betrayed our dad's wishes all in one horrendous weekend. We tried to assuage our feelings of guilt by leaving the swinging doors unlocked for scavengers who might want to dig for treasure. That's what Daddy would have done.
After spending three days hoisting mouse-chewed Barbie dolls, broken 78 records from my mom's teen years, unlabeled photographs of people long since passed, drawers full of old grocery and gas receipts, broken tools, rusty cabinets, unfinished craft projects, and piles of dead vacuum cleaners into the dumpster, I became sick. I stayed in my motel room bed for two days, lifting my head from the pillow only to vomit. I doubt that it was the flu or food poisoning: We all ate the same food, and nobody else in the family got sick. I believe it was a very visceral response to the overwhelming pain within my spirit. This was the one final and worst betrayal of all: I was desperately unhappy, and that is the thing my Daddy would have wanted the least. Had he known that storing all that stuff would cause me so much pain, he would never have kept it.
When I was finally able to function, I took the six-hour drive back home with a few precious bits of my inheritance. Ordinarily, Thanksgiving weekend marks the beginning of the Christmas season for my family. We crank up the Christmas music, put up the tree, drink cocoa and deck the halls. Not this year. Too depressed and exhausted to care about Christmas at all, I collapsed on the couch and surveyed the pictures covering the walls of my own living room, my bookcase stuffed with dozens of books, the furniture, knick-knacks, memorabilia, toys and collections that I treasured in my own home. Then I thought about my garage full of unfinished projects, my own basement stacked with storage boxes, my kitchen drawers and cupboards filled to capacity with gadgets, and my craft room overflowing with good intentions. I wondered to myself how much of it my kids might someday be forced to toss into a rented dumpster. Emotionally spent and physically puny, I made the decision to change.