Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The 70s closet

My daughter‘s closet has been a bone of discontent in my home ever since she became a teenager, just over a year ago. It is the closet‘s fault that her room is a mess, and the closet‘s fault that she is late for gym and it is the closet‘s fault that she stays up too late. Now strange and erratic behaviour was to be expected, she is our younger of two children so the proverbial been there done that applies in our dealing with teenage oddities. However, it came as a complete surprise when we realised that the closet was not an innocent scapegoat at all but 100% guilty of all charges, the first criminal piece of furniture ever to cross my path. This enlightenment took place when I decided to help my daughter go through her clothes and sort out the ones that she had outgrown from those that she was likely to use. After hours of excruciating effort, now standing in front of two towering heaps of each sort, it became evident that no manner of organising, folding, ironing, sorting or anything else ladylike would ever manage to fit but the topmost layer of one trove into the meagre storage space the closet provided. The ankle-deep clothing stratum covering the floor, the missing gym clothes avalanched underneath and the ghostly effect of the open closet door jammed by the flow from inside, respectively caused: the mess, the tardiness and the insomnia.

Our house was built in 1978 - the photo is not taken inside it, Praise the Lord. At the time Iceland was very different from what it is today. For one, everyone from babies to senior citizens had a lot less clothes than today. There were only a handful of stores to buy them in and someone had yet to come up with the idea for shopping trips to other countries that actually had a selection. People had evolved somewhat from basically dressing so as not to be naked or cold, but just barely. At the time of construction there was thus no reason to erect closets wider than 2 feet as the dark empty space besides the three hangers in use only served to decrease the wall space otherwise available for gaudy, far-out, patterned wallpaper.

Now we have numerous stores aimed at keeping consumers of all ages, shapes and sizes from going around naked or unfashionable and the distinction as to which alternative is more embarrassing has blurred. Other things have evolved as well; one of the most marked evolutions regards TV. When I was growing up there was one government-run station, established in 1966. At first it only broadcasted on Wednesday and Friday evenings but soon expanded its programming and added almost all of the other missing evenings of the week. This was with the exception of Thursdays as the station could only afford one crew, which needed a weekly break. In addition, to meet the crew’s vacationing needs, there was also no TV in July. It was probably no coincidence that we were good at chess during this period. It was only in 1983 that the station had accrued enough money to bring in interim personnel to carry them through the full summer, and in 1987 to man the full week.

The other most noticeable change has to do with beer. This dangerous mead was illegal from 1915 until 1989 for reasons related to public health. I guess those in charge at the time believed it less hazardous to drink vodka, or the dreaded brennivín. There was supposedly a great worry that if everyone could get their hands on beer, everyone would be drunk, always, with the exception of those who meted out the regulations of course. They probably shuddered at the idea of being the only sober citizens, destined to assume the positions of designated drivers for the riff raff for all eternity. Although we now have beer, this and anything alcoholic is still only allowed for sale in government liquor stores (aside from bars and restraunts) and this is unlikely to change any time soon. At least we now have a selection and can walk around and look at the merchandise, before the late 80’s you would walk up to a counter (see photo) and for example ask for red wine and be handed what they had in stock, quite often a bottle of vintage Chinese production. I recall throwing up a lot more frequently when drinking than I do today. Another thing that is now a thing of the past were "surprise closing events" when these stores would be shut without notice in an effort to decrease drinking. This always happened the day before a big holiday so it did not take much genius to figure out a counteraction - i.e. buy the day before the day before.

There are limitless other things that have taken a leap forward but it seems as if most are accompanied with a decline elsewhere – similar to the: more TV, less chess relationship. Social evolution is an isostatic process. The exception to the rule: Better wine, less vomiting.

In other news – the first polar bear sighting this year took place today. So did the first polar bear shooting unfortunately.

Yrsa - Wednesday

1 comment:

  1. Yrsa, the closet you describe is very much the same as the three closets that we had in the house I grew up in. The door wouldn't close if the clothes were on a hanger because the hanger was wider than the closet. The closet space didn't extend to the ceiling of the room nor to the floor. About 2 feet above the floor there was a shelf; the house was built in the 1890's so perhaps high-top shoes were supposed to fit under it?

    There were six kids in two bedrooms. My sister and I shared a room big enough for two twin beds and a bureau. My four brothers were squeezed into a room big enough for a set of bunk beds and two small chests of drawers. And one very tiny closet.

    My mother would periodically, about every two weeks, go on the warpath to make us clean our rooms. Her method was to take everything out of the closets and put them on the floor. Our jobs were to somehow get everything that didn't fit into the closet in the first place, back into that same small space. We would put everything back into the closets and the room would look exactly as it did before the "cleaning" began.

    The home in which I raised my three (2 girls and a boy) was built in the early 1950's and the original part of the house wasn't much better in the closet department. We built an addition and I insisted that the new rooms have big closets with shelves and organizers and plenty of room for hangers.

    Everything went on the floor.

    Periodically, when my husband got tired of listening to my ranting monologues on the kids' rooms, he would tell them that he was going to "help" them get organized (his favorite word). The kids know that his idea of organizing is to throw everything out so they would be seemingly grateful for his help and quick to follow his directions so that they could get him out of there before he did too much damage.

    He would happily carry out trash bags of broken pencils, permission slips that never got returned to school, dead batteries that might someday come to life again. Peace would reign for a few days and then everything would be back on the floor and he would begin his own ranting monologues.

    I don't know if things would have been better if they didn't have as much but I doubt it. The problem wasn't lack of space. The problem was that they didn't see any reason for it to be neat. They were happy. My son could, annoyingly, always find what he needed in his piles of paper and clothes. Their father would drag out the "this room is a fire trap" argument but that cut no ice.

    Maybe kids who grow up in areas that can be very cold feel the need to create a burrow, a place from which they can hide from the cold. Could parents who live in warmer climates let me know if my theory has any weight?