When Eulalie Sacks opened the door to her home, she had two thoughts.
The first thought was “accretion”. She had been studying vocabulary words for the SAT test she would be taking on Saturday, and she had lamented about how many of the words were abstract ideas, difficult to visualize. Accretion, however was a concept with a physical example in the form of stalactites and stalagmites, those someday-meet-in-the-middle icicle-like cave formations, the product of years and years of mineral deposits, so tiny as to be imperceptible, but impressive when added up over hundreds and thousands of years.
This thought came to Eulalie because a pile of miscellaneous items on the living room couch had become so tall as to form a precarious point that reminded her of a stalagmite, and she unconsciously looked up to the ceiling to look for the blob’s upside-down sibling.
Eulalie had gotten used to piles of stuff on the couches and chairs. Her mother had become a collector of things – books about gardening, pickling supplies, kitchen utensils – almost anything food or cooking related. She also had a myriad of hobbies and ideas for future hobbies which inspired piles and boxes full of piles on the floor. It had been awhile since Eulalie had seen a clear patch of the carpet. Most of the front living room window was also covered by boxes, many of which were piled on a cat condo for their non-existent (and never existed) cat to climb on.
It had been years since anyone had sat on the couch. And wasn’t there a chair in the corner? How had she not seen this happening? Her mother had always had a reason to put something here, something there, and she talked about plans to use those somethings or to give them more permanent homes elsewhere. But those reasons and plans never came to fruition, were never something Eulalie could see. They were all abstract ideas in her mind, but she assumed they were more visible in her mother’s mind. Were they?
The project ideas had begun when Eulalie entered middle school, the year her father had moved away. Little by little, interactions with her Mom moved into smaller locations. But Eulalie also spent more time away from home or alone in her room, so she hadn’t noticed. She stopped watching TV on the living room couch because she was busy with homework, or she watched shows on her laptop. She used to eat with her mom at the kitchen table, but now she ate all her meals in her room.
In fact, when Eulalie looked around at the living room, she was amazed at how much stuff had accumulated. The whole space was filled with formations that had slowly accreted there, piled by her mother after shopping trips and rummage sale stops and gathering from free piles in the neighborhood. When was the last time she had even looked in here? Usually when she came home, she was on her phone, texting or tweeting, then through her bedroom door four steps later.
It was like looking at a geological wonder, the cave of her home, slowly built up. Accretion.
It was then, looking on with mouth open in wonder, that Eulalie had her second thought.
“My mom’s a hoarder.” She let this phrase settle into her. Then she went into her room to Google it.