Friday, February 25, 2005

The Big File

Housework is not a time-consuming chore when it is done a little bit every day and no unsightly mildewed confusion is ever allowed to grow. In much the same way, studying mathematics is a manageable endeavor as long as one does the homework everyday and never gets behind or fails to have a confusing concept promptly explained. I used to be a pretty good math student, and even expected to major in math and minor in actuarial science in college. That didn't happen, I ended up an art major, and then I became a pretty good homemaker.

The last few years the whole housework discipline has escaped me. I can't always balance my checkbook the first time through. Things pile up; stacks of bills, piles of files, stacks of unsorted images torn from magazines that I use for teaching, images I used in class last summer but didn't refile, other stacks of the papers I use for my collages, lots and lots of letters, clipped newspaper columns from Leon Satterfield and Molly Ivins, "Get Fuzzy", "Zits" and "One Big Happy" comics, small appliance owner's manuals, old report cards and team rosters and drink schedules.

My friends know that when I finally embark on The Big Clean, The Big Cook, or The Big Iron, I will be off the radar for at least two days. They know I am jousting with dust bunnies the size of Abyssinian cats, or blowing fuses in the kitchen. They probably don't know the ugly truth about The Big File, however.

The Big File is like being sucked down Alice's Rabbit Hole. I keep painting myself into a smaller and smaller circle until I am kneeling in a spiral of paper stacks. When the phone rings my legs are too cramped for me to scramble up and answer before the voice mail kicks in. I'm very close to running out of file folders, and the file cabinet drawers are crammed to overflowing.

Fritzi's letters and lots of other correspondence had been saved in a Rubbermaid shoebox since I moved to this condo in 2000. They hadn't settled into neat and tidy strata, however. I spent a good hour arranging the letters by date this afternoon. I hadn't saved all of Mom's letters, and I didn't use any clear specifications when saving or discarding. I especially want to read through the last two years some other day. I think it will be a very positive experience, but I can't do it right now. I have all those other pictures stacked all over the floor, and I can't walk in my room.

As kids we had some plastic circle gizmos for fanning out and managing a hand of playing cards. That is what I need now on a much larger scale. I saw the Texas Ballet Theater's Jayme Autrey Griffith performing the classic Don Quixote fan dance last weekend. Why can't I flick this semicircle of files in a coquetish manner?

Interestingly, I received a letter from my aunt today that included a delightful letter my mom had written her a couple years back. Mom was dealing out the full update on all her kids and grandkids and travels. It was fun to read. I feel sorry for people who have no pen pals. A long-lasting written relationship is a fabulous gift. Now I just have to figure out how to get out of my "wheelie" home office chair without rolling over any of the stacks!

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