When we put the property on the market in 2008, Kira and I began the monumental task of clearing out generations of the Clarks’ personal belongings from the house. The accumulation of “stuff” in the Comfort Island mansion fit the definition of overwhelming. For one hundred and thirty years clothes, artifacts, and wares of every description had been brought to the island and almost nothing had left. A solution to streamlining what one wanted to keep became more difficult after the local community banned burning. In some of the seldom-used closets we found bags of trash that never made it as far as the first floor.
Books, papers, photographs, letters, furniture, linens, clothes and much more were still found in abundance. A hopelessly broken chair didn’t go to the dump. Instead it found a new home under the house. Victorian trunks that resemble sofas extending to the floor but having no backs are bursting with puffed sleeved blouses, petticoats and ankle-length skirts. I marveled at an exquisite white lace parasol that Kira retrieved from the closet at the corner of the living room. At least a half-dozen century old peaked captain’s hats are found in closets and trunks throughout the house, which gives testament to their popularity for the men of that period.
I found boxes full of papers, letters, photos, and other memorabilia that still had shipping stamps affixed verifying that they had been sent to the island by a relative who wanted to clean out a closet, attic, or storage unit. Dad passed away in 1981, and I remember Ellen-Betsy telling me about sending at least one box herself. She said, “I went to Dad’s storage facility after he passed away and a title wave of junk cascaded toward me when I opened the door. Among other things I found was a grocery bag full of junk mail and solicitations from the 1966.” I was thankful she threw that out rather than sending it along too.
I took a cursory look in this assemblage of mementoes in the “antique room,” and then quickly moved on to simpler project locations like those drawers full of old clothes that I’d tucked away forty years before with the idea I would soon fit into that swell pair of corduroy pants again that looked so good on me when I was eighteen.
When it comes to finding a convenient place to depot that pair of corduroy pants, it is handy to live in a mansion. The room I used as my office didn’t even look crowded despite a trunk, three tables, several chairs, and three separate chests of drawers. I opened the closet in the corner of that room, and I was stunned as I took stock of the contents littering the floor. Three tiers of antiquated shoes were heaped on top of each other. Two pairs of hiking boots I’d hardly ever worn were conspicuous on the bottom level. Dress shoes from high school and the years that followed constituted another layer. Near the top of the knee-high pile was a pair of boat shoes.
As I contemplated the task of moving these shoes off the island, I became interested...