Dust

Dust covers everything. It lies thick and grey, scattering to the touch, leaping onto my hands and my clothing as I work.

I’ve been to the liquor store every day asking for packing boxes. Books are so heavy that these smaller size boxes are ideal. There’s a pleasant lady who will ask you how many you want and if you are not too greedy, she will say, “Take what you want. They are in a pile there.” But if you say you want ten, she will tell you they will only give out two at a time.It’s a heavy volume store for restaurants and wine stores so that they need their boxes for the commercial customers.

There is another woman, you notice I don’t say lady, who says quite abruptly that they can’t afford to give out any of their boxes.

Yesterday I asked a man employee who asked me where my car was. If I could bring it to the loading dock, he could give me several. Bingo! I had scored some boxes.

He took me past the swing door that said Employees Only in bright red letters and in amongst the disarray of full wine cases. He pointed way up against the south wall, about eight feet up where the shelf started, since he later had to reach his full arm length up to get the boxes, and showed me maybe two hundred empty boxes.

“Would a dolly full suit you?” he asked. I was simply delighted and said so. Thanked him with both words and a truly happy smile. He pulled out the dolly and packed thirteen boxes down. Now this was quite a feat and I found it fascinating to watch. He had practiced so that no boxes fell during his manoeuver.

First his fingers scoped the two outer sides of the bottom box of a pile of six, then he shifted the pile gently forward in a motion always parallel to the floor and not disturbing the balance of all of those above; then somehow he guided the vertical balancing act down gently to floor level. Nothing dropped out of the box column. I was amazed. I asked him if he had to learn juggling before he could get a job there and he laughed while shaking his head for a “no”.
On the dolly, he place four rows of three, then added one on top. I had a baker’s dozen!

While he was helping me to my car, the woman who had refused me boxes came to the loading dock for a smoke. She occupied the narrow set of metal stairs with her broad beam and reluctantly moved away when her gentleman colleague helped me get the dolly down to ground level.

I knew I was pushing my luck. Once they were loaded in my trunk and back seat, I went back to say to the man that I had more room in the car if he felt so inclined to let me have them. She barred the way on the metal stairs.

” You’re lucky to have any at all,” she admonished in a flat and disgusted voice. “We don’t give out boxes at this store.” I didn’t know if she was his manager. He had overheard and he came back within proximity and said, “Try the store at Cedar Creek Village. They always have lots of boxes and they are glad to pass them along for people who need packing boxes.”

I thanked him and said I would try that, then went on my way.

When I was back home, I had thirteen boxes to fill. I chose to work in Father’s study. Mom had kept this room as a shrine, practically, for sixteen years until we took her two grandsons, my nephews, in to live with us. Hugh had this room. That was acceptable to Mother because Hugh was academic. He studied his life away until the early hours of the morning and got his Bachelor degree with honours just a year ago November. Something of his grandfather had rubbed off on him. He did really well.

Hugh moved out just at the beginning of this month. I’m happy for him although I’m feeling the emptiness of nest, especially in the evenings when we used to spent time together over dinner, television and gossip of the days activities.

As happens, his brother Ron is coming back home at the end of this month. Moving day is tomorrow and I’m trying to clear out the books and chattels from the Shrine so that Ron can have that room to sleep in with space to put his belongings.

And so my encounter with dust. The books have not been moved in years. Hugh lived with them and they didn’t bother. On the high top of the bookshelf, there are mementos of Father’s academic and professional career. There is a world glove engraved with the date and occasion that it was given him, There is a wooden owl covered with gesso and painted to simulate bird feathers sitting on a rough hewn piece of wood, covered in moss that is a perfect dust absorber.There is a gizmo that only a surveyor would recognize. It has a tiny dowel stuck in a triangular block or wood, a suspended ping pong ball that is red on the bottom half and white on the top half and a tiny red pin-like post. There is a wooden losenge shaped shield on which a brass plaque once was glued. That plaque sits upon it now unattached, the glue having dried and gone on retirement, it was so old.

There is a stack of father’s framed school and professional diplomas, put there by Hugh who replaced them with his diplomas as he began to accumulate them. There is a large white open vase, an oblongish bowl, with that green sponge like stuff in it helping an atrociously exuberant bouquet of silk flowers, mostly lilies. As I brought down each of these items, I dusted them with a damp cloth so that the dust would come away, sticking to the rag and I could rinse it away at the bathroom sink and start removing dust again from the next object or the next book or the next shelf.

As I removed Father’s ancient and esoteric Surveying and Engineering books to Mother’s study where I had cleaned out a shelf for them, I pondered what I would do with them. I hated to throw them out. They weren’t antiques yet, so there was probably no desirability from that point of view, and yet surely the advances in technology in the last thirty years since he retired would have made these texts more than obsolete. How long does one hold onto the past by it’s memorabilia? Did I have to look through these and see if any were written by him? If I threw them out, did that mean his passing on earth was then obliviated? Where would his contributions to science and engineering be remembered? Would any of my siblings want to keep these? We’d all gone into different professions. Not one of us would even have a clue as to their meaning, their content. Was there a library or a museum that would want them?

“Dust unto dust” I thought wryly as I continued on my task, slowly emptying the shelves.

I would be glad when Franc arrived to relieve me of my thoughts and my labours.

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