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Fifty-Two Pick Up
Creativity Amongst Chaos
Anyone who has spent time playing cards has likely been invited at some point to play Fifty-Two Pickup. But it’s not so much a card game as a prank.
The prankster takes a full deck of 52 cards and may shuffle the cards or re-arrange the deck as if preparing for a legitimate card game. However, once the cards are in a neat stack, the prankster will then toss the cards into the air and shout something along the lines of, "I throw the cards, you pick them up!" The recipients of the prank are then left to re-assemble the deck from the cards scattered all over.
Every so often in life, I play a version of Fifty-Two Pickup with my house.
In 1999, when Frank and I returned to central West Virginia from Chicago, we planned to spend a year on his family’s farm, sort our stuff and our lives, and move on. It was the first time and location where we combined his stuff and my stuff, removing stuff from storage, opening boxes closed for years, and temporarily (or so we thought) settling in what was once a recreation building of a former park — designed for summer use only.
The building included no closets, no insulation, no bedroom, and no bathtub. It had been unoccupied and unused for at least a decade. However, it did have a commercial kitchen, free natural gas, free well water, and sits beside a three-acre lake. Frank already had a love of the land here, and roots. It didn’t take long before such things affected me too.
But due to our original lack of a plan to stay, and a decade before we admitted to ourselves we weren’t actually going to leave, and the combination of two households of stuff (and life), and the fact that the building was never meant to be a residence, we have never really managed to get the place into any “normal household order.”
It doesn’t help that I’m a collector of books, shoes, typewriters, and certain things vintage and/or antique. I’m also the family museum, in charge of Grandma’s bell collection, Daddy’s watchman’s clock, Aunt Sybil’s costume jewelry, etc., etc. And Frank — well, Frank’s a hoarder. He claims his junk has value. I see it as junk. Either way, we have too much stuff.
And this summer, I decided to rip out all our wall-to-wall carpet and paint the floors. Which means a majority of our stuff had to be moved and/or tossed up into the air. It’s like Fifty-Two Pickup, but with an immeasurable number of items, many of them with no determined proper place to rest.
I was taught to clean from top to bottom. But this summer, I have gone backward, bottom to top. The current condition resembles pure chaos. But it was long overdue.
I think most working women are challenged to keep a clean, organized house. During the seven years I worked outside the home, I managed to purge lots of stuff, and somewhat maintain a level of cleanliness, but was often too tired or too time-limited to deep clean much of anything. And we’re two long-hairs, living in the midst of a hayfield and red clay mud, with two dogs, a cat, and no screen doors.
Ripping out the carpet can really let you know how much dirt, grime, and pet hair you’ve actually been living with. I will never have wall-to-wall carpet again, and I am tormented currently by the Asian beetles that aren’t ladybugs trying to move into the house for the winter.
And I love the whole process. It isn’t Fifty-Two Pickup as much as a “reallocation of physical assets.” The process makes it easy to see ineffective uses of storage, systems, and placement. A re-evaluation of how we thought things would work and how they actually work. A re-assessment of all the stuff, how it fits together, where it would best belong.
And, a re-discovery of the things I have tucked away for someday, like the peel-and-stick wallpaper I’m in the process of hanging in the bedroom. And the shelving brackets waiting for the shelving boards that Frank has tucked away in the storage trailer that I’m mounting in the closet and the laundry room. Or all the publishing and printing/binding/cutting equipment that’s been waiting for studio space. Or the artwork waiting for a frame or the proper location. And the hoard of fabric I’m using to make new rugs.
I remember, during my time in grad school when I faced a writing deadline with minimal written work to turn in. I confessed to my advisor for the semester, “I haven’t done much writing, but I have rearranged the furniture, reorganized the kitchen cabinets, washed all the windows, and changed the drapes.” Expecting some level of chastisement, I was surprised when he rather flippantly replied, “Oh, that must be part of your creative process.”
He was right. The week before the deadline, the words flowed out onto the page effortlessly.
There’s not much room for creativity in the Fifty-Two Pickup card game, but a household reallocation of physical assets used, unused, hoarded, and tucked away is more of a puzzle, each piece seeking proper placement. Everything goes up in the air, but falls again Tetris-like, with me left to determine how it all fits together more strategically.
I am so grateful to have the time to re-create our home space, to bring new order to my self-imposed chaos. Sometimes you have to shake things up and toss your deck up into the air, to see how the cards come together when they land. Then you can play on with a new hand.
It’s not chaos, it’s a creative process. I love seeing it come together again.
It’s that season. The season when I’m supposed to push, push, push you to buy your gifts from my online stores. I have already included a banner for my bookstore, Two-Lane Books, and my print-on-demand shop, Two-Lane Prints, both of which are designed to support Appalachian and West Virginia artists and authors. I also have Two-Lane Studio, which presents digital prints of my own paintings, artwork, and creations. I do hope you will consider using these venues to shop local and with intention to support creatives in our state and region.
You can also support my writing by giving a gift subscription to the Two-Lane Renaissance; gifting a friend or family member VIP access to our online community.
As we enter the Thanksgiving season, know I am grateful for you, Dear Reader, for taking time in your life to note what I have to share. If you enjoy reading, please consider sharing my Substack with others.