I push on the door. It silently protests. It doesn't want to budge. I press harder against its panels, feeling as if I'm trying to move a big, lazy dog who is behind it, fast asleep. Slowly it opens.
Standing on the threshold, I stare into the eye of the disaster.
She's only seven but her room is teaming with a lifetime's worth of things. In the same way Dog Years inflate Earthly time, the Toy Years have a tendency of magnifying tiny collections and making mountains out of MEGA Bloks.
A pile of books leans precariously as it balances a full-sized China tea cup. All of them gifts from the neighbor's garage sale. A herd of stuffed animals, released from their basket holding pen, graze around the dust bunnies that have grown to freakish size in the darkness under her bed. All manner of skirts and shoes and socks, dropped where they were changed, mingle with dolls and drawing pads and greeting cards and bits of paper saved for no discernible reason.
I leaf through a stack that has spilled all askew.
The shiny, colorful postcards are emphatic: "SAVE BIG! TRACTOR SUPPLIES! PORTABLE GREENHOUSES! DOOR BUSTERS!"
So this is where all the junk mail goes. ...
And the cardboard out of the recycling pile. …
And sheets of bubble wrap, with only two cells left to pop. ...
And the plastic tags from the back of Band-Aids.
The shock of pink walls and chalkboard decals are muted by the realization that I can find no evidence of a structural surface below them. Not anywhere. The floors are carpeted with bath towels and blankets an all manner of trip-ables. The window ledges are encrusted with legions of colorful figurines.
I'm raising a hoarder.
Even the dresser is packed to overflowing. There are winter duds stubbornly planted amid the short sleeves and bathing suits. Didn't I pull these out and pack them away? I shrug. I consider culling the clothes again, but I know it's a waste of time. Instead I try to close the drawers, which are stuck open at perfect, stair-like intervals. It is another losing battle. The drawer exacts a fair price in winning, pinching my fingers as I try to tuck and stow its proud contents.
I am here, in her room, because she is not. My motive is spurred not by well-founded fears of fire hazard but a random request for "outgrown princess dresses." ... Dresses she couldn't find if I asked her for them, and wouldn't part with despite being unable to squeeze their size-infant bodices over her growing-girl body.
Attachment disorder in the reverse.
It took some doing, but I found oodles of the lacy, shimmery gowns in a bag at the bottom of her closet. They were big puffs of nylon and net that, by volume, could fill the room but when folded and slipped into a bag would compress to the size of a small pillow.
Mission accomplished, I was standing at the threshold again looking at the room. Satisfied there was no noticeable sign of my having been there. I knew she'd never miss the dresses I'd hauled away. But I wasn't as sure that I wouldn't miss them.
The weight of the bag was so light in comparison to the weight of what I was doing: a thief, in the afternoon, carting away her childhood one donation at a time.