Gimme a Smile: I have a ridiculous amount of…

A bona fide packrat answers.

  • By Peggy McKee Barnhill For the Juneau Empire
  • Friday, January 27, 2023 3:00pm
  • Neighbors

I saw one of those Facebook quizzes the other day — you know, the ones you’re not supposed to engage in because you will give out too much of your personal information to bad actors who might want to send you presents on your birthday or donate to your alma mater in your name while they clean out your bank accounts and take on massive debt for you to repay. So, rather than risking answering the question online, I figured I’d play it safe and answer it in a newspaper column instead. How could that hurt?

The question was, “I have a ridiculous amount of ____________.” As a bona fide packrat, I consider myself well qualified to answer this question. In fact, multiple answers came flooding to mind.

My first thought was, I have a ridiculous amount of fortunes I’ve saved from fortune cookies. Yes, I save every fortune. I keep them in a little drawer in my jewelry box, but they magically get out for me to find lying around the house whenever I need a boost. I found this one in my wallet the other day: “This year your highest priority will be your family.” How did they know? There’s one on my dresser that reads, “You have a charming way with words and should write a book.” OK, I keep that one out as inspiration, but it really did come in a fortune cookie, and fortune cookies don’t lie.

Then I thought, I have a ridiculous amount of pieces of paper with writing on them. Some are lists: things to do, books to read, projects from the last century to complete. Some are ideas for essays, stories, or ambitious book series. One was a folded-up piece of notebook paper with the heading, “Prompt—I have a ridiculous amount of…” The problem with those bits of paper is, of course, organization. If you can’t find the piece of paper, it’s no use to you. Yes, I just spent fifteen minutes sifting through more than one pile of papers to find my notes for this essay.

I have a ridiculous amount of clothes I don’t wear. Either they don’t fit me yet (please refrain from saying “anymore”) or I don’t have an occasion to wear them. I’m all about function over form these days. If the dress isn’t comfortable, it doesn’t matter how cute it is — I’ve got something else that’s cozy.

I have a ridiculous amount of pennies. “Save your pennies,” they said, so I saved. It’s easy to save pennies since you can’t buy anything with them. I have a big old jar full of pennies, including some wheat pennies going back to 1909 or so. That’s over a hundred years ago, which gives them historical value, right? They’re worth every penny. Besides the psychological value of making me feel rich (or poor, depending on my mood) that jar of pennies could be useful as a paperweight, a guess-the-number-of-pennies event at a school fundraiser, or a trendy bookend.

If I go the bookend route, I will need to start saving a new jar of pennies, because I have a ridiculous amount of books. There are books in every room in my house and bins of books in the garage. I am a practitioner of tsundoku, the Japanese concept of buying books and letting them pile up without reading them. There are more unread books in my house than books I have read. I don’t keep them for decoration or to portray a fictitious account of my erudite life on social media. I get the books because I want to read them.

You might take a liberal view of the word “ridiculous,” using it to connote laughing in joy rather than derision. In that spirit, I have a ridiculous amount of hope for the future. I believe that I will have time to read all the books I want to read in my house, and more that I will check out of the library. I have plans for several book series that I hope to write and publish. I keep all those clothes because I hope to be able to wear them one day. I watch my children as they venture out into the world, and I envision them being happy and successful in whatever their hearts desire. I see stories on Facebook about people helping each other out in this lovely place I call home, and I have hope that we will all figure things out in the end.

What do you have a ridiculous amount of?

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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