Mike McGough
October 2017

It was a garage—nothing more and nothing less. But it was his garage, so he decided to personalize it. Over the past half century he had accumulated a great deal of stuff. He had a sense of history and he was a bit of a sentimentalist, so discarding mementoes was a bit difficult. Everything was neat and in its place. Each piece had a story, and he could easily recount each every one of them.

Having downsized from a much larger house several years ago, there was just not enough room in the new house to hang everything he thought deserved some wall spaces. As a result many items were boxed to be stored at the new house. Relegated to the attic put them out of sight and presumably out of mind for several years. Fortunately, they were not forgotten and neither were the stories and memories associated with them.

When he added some additional garage space, there were a number of blank walls. As he moved some of his boxes from the house attic to the attic above the new garage, he examined the content of each box. Rather than re-boxing many of the items, he began hanging them in the new garage. He liked the idea of being able to see a number of items that still had meaning to him.

There were pictures of family, relatives, and friends that each brought back some pleasant memories and their own stories. There were old baseball bats, timeworn tin signs, a number of rather commonplace historical artifacts, a forty-eight star flag, some diplomas, several certificates, some advertisements, a few original photographs, an art poster or two, a child’s BB gun, some sports memorabilia, a couple of old newspapers, a map or two, and a host of other unrelated items.

There was no real rhyme or reason for how it was organized. He hung items as he found them, creating a most eclectic visual presentation. The only thing that seemed to connect all of the pieces was that they belonged to him. The net cash value of all of it could easily have been covered by a Franklin, and there would have been enough left to buy a good meal. The esthetic value would also have been low—very low in fact. Any beauty would be in the eye of the beholder, and possibly in his eyes alone. He convinced himself that he wasn’t a hoarder, but was instead the creator, curator, and caretaker of his own personal, visual archive.

Periodically someone wandered in. If they showed any interest whatsoever, he would very accommodatingly provide some personal story seasoned with a little broader historical perspective for any item that caught a visitor’s eye. There were no pretensions in his stories, and few made him look like anything more or less than a guy who appreciated where he had been, what he had done, and the people who had thus far shared in his life. If someone passed through and showed no interest, he was good with that too.

After he had a lot of items hung, he came across an old mirror. It had no particular or special story. It was relatively small, and unless you were looking for it, it could easily have gone unnoticed, but he hung it nonetheless. He hung it just about eye level for the average-sized person. One visitor did notice it and asked him why it was there. His explanation seemed to sum up the purpose and intent of the entire collection.

He said the mirror gave anyone who came through his garage an opportunity to see themself in the midst of his collection of miscellaneous mementoes. For that period of time, even if he just met them, they were part of his life and part of his story. He said as such he was happy to grant them a bit of his wall space as a way of saying “Thanks” for dropping by and taking a look around. “After all,” he commented, “they’re kind enough to take a minute and look at these things that have meaning to me, so they deserve to be part of my little montage even if only for a short time.”

He was in a number of the picture he had hung. They covered a wide range of years in his life, and in each one his face was frozen in time. He said, “My picture in the mirror changes every time I look at it. I get to see myself age in real time, and that’s a pleasant and timely reminder that every day is a gift to be appreciated and used. Besides if I don’t use my days well, I may not find more things to hang on my walls!”