I’ve been helping pack up my late uncle’s apartment this week, so it’s been a little melancholy and a little funny and a lot tiring. He was more than a little strange. Don’t get me wrong: my uncle was funny, kind, and generous. He loved animals and kept a small jungle’s worth of plants. But he was definately strange. And in my family, that’s saying something.
But the whole process has got me thinking about Paul Westerberg’s “Things.” It’s about packing up and moving–not just physical things, but the difficult, emotional, intangible things that make up a life. It was written about his divorce from Laurie Lindeen. (I should mention here that his Wikipedia page states that they are still married, but I recall hearing they’d divorced but still shared the same home because of her MS.) It is one of those classic Westerberg songs that seems simple on the surface but carries a huge emotional punch. There is anger and sadness and love all thrown together, like stuff thrown in a box during a move. It tells the story of how a relationship begins and ends not with what is said, but what is left unsaid. “Things I’m bound to tell you like ‘That dress looks great on ya.’ ‘I could use some breathing room, but I’m still in love with you.’ Things I’d never tell you, down the line someday, you’ll be a song I sing, a thing I give away.” The things that matter most are always the things we have the most trouble expressing. So we pack them away in little mental boxes and shove them into the darkest, dustiest corners of our psyches and hope we never have to move them again. We know what to do with stuff: with blenders and plates and books and towels. We almost never know what to do with our hearts.
“I packed my things today.”