Essay: Shedding, it’s a journey

Our labs make shedding look so easy. Tufts of fur fall out of their black coats with no apparent effort. The sloughing just happens. No big deal to them. They don’t need that winter coat anymore.

Shedding is an effort for me. I hold on to things.

My winter parka still hangs in the mudroom. Winter boots continue to clutter the upstairs hall on the way to the attic. Dig under the bottles of sunscreen and bathing suits in our tattered basket by the front door and you’ll find buried mittens and wool hats. If only I could drop the excess as easily as the dogs and let the fur fall where it might. The clutter that can be a cozy comfort in the cold months is suffocating now. Less in this season is definitely more.

Last weekend, probably in an effort to avoid some real work, I decided to collect all the loose change that has piled up throughout the house over the years. I’d think small and just try to accomplish this one thing. Not only would this be manageable, but I thought it might even be rewarding since the coins still have some value unlike most of the junk around the house.

Once I started looking for change, I found it everywhere. It became embarrassing. Why had I never noticed this before? Each dresser held a broken cup or bowl filled to the brim with pennies, dimes, nickels and even a few quarters.. A Madonna saving’s bank at the back of bookcase was heavy with change. How did that happen? There were coins in a ceramic bowl in the kitchen cupboard. On top of the dryer in the basement, there was a small box filled with clean quarters and dimes mixed with sea glass, swivel snaps, and other odds and ends that emerge out of dirty pockets.

Even the garage hid a stash of coins. Among the rakes and bicycles was an old milk bottle filled to the top with change. Moved from a previous home, it sat in that spot for over a decade . If we were hoarding all this change, what else was surrounding us in unseen piles? I couldn’t examine this now.

Instead, I lined up all the containers on the kitchen porch and started to sort. This took me on a journey so far back through our family history that we had no children at all. The pennies on top were from this century, but those buried deeper had dates that pushed back into the early nineteen eighties when our oldest child was born.

Much of the change was from currencies no longer in use. There were Irish shillings with harps on them and Greek drachmas bearing the heads of their ancient gods. Lire from Italy lay alongside French francs. Bahamian pennies minted with sea stars rubbed up against Mexican pesos.

I couldn’t toss these beautiful, if useless, mementos of former adventures. Instead, 25 years of exploring went back into one of the least chipped bowls. The rest — the thin dimes, the tarnished pennies, the nickels, and quarters — I poured into a large tin canister and two plastic salad boxes. I lugged these out to the car, adding a few final nickels amid discarded candy wrappers on the floor. If I didn’t drive right to the bank, I knew I’d lose my momentum. Judging by the milk bottle; if this happened, it could be a long time before the shedding urge set in again.

There was a coin sorter at the bank. I’d never used one before and had no idea how much fun it would be. I dumped a pile of change on the conveyor belt and as if by magic, the machine set to work sorting and tallying. When that load went through, I added another. Coins that were bent or missorted clattered into a coin return, but the rest slowly disappeared. At the end, all I had left were three empty containers, a small handful of reject coins, and a single slip of paper with my total on it. The final tally came to a whopping $74.83. As I slipped eight thin bills and eight coins into my wallet, I decided I’d ask my husband out to dinner. Our anniversary was coming up.

Had I done some real shedding? At the least, pounds had become ounces. Back home, I put the obsolete coins in the exact spot where the milk bottle had been. I’m sure to forget about them. Random jars and cups will slowly fill up with coins once again, but for the moment I felt surprisingly lighter. I might even put away the winter clothes before we go out to celebrate our anniversary. We don’t need them anymore.

Laura Wainwright is a freelance writer who lives in West Tisbury.