The Clip Files, Intro

The support and love that readers offered here moved me profoundly. Thank you! I’d considered turning comments off for the announcement that my sister had died and I’m glad I didn’t know how! Locally, friends have stepped up with legion acts of generosity. Flowers. Dinners. Errands. Packing up the apartment. Prayers. The word that I hear in my head this week to describe friendships is: MIGHTY.

My sister had many compulsions, all of which added up to a disordered life and her premature death at 64. She’d been incapacitated physically for most of the last ten years and morbidly obese for nearly the entirety of her adult life.

Her need was bottomless, her rage explosive, the triggers countless. There were many times over the last nine years when I didn’t think I would survive her. But I offered up a battered loyalty.

Relating to my sister was so crushingly difficult that the demands placed by her remaining mess feel very nearly trivial.

Her clip file, however, poses special problems. For one thing it’s huge — the equivalent of ten banker’s boxes? Fifteen? It’s hard to tell yet, because I keep finding more.

The collection was housed in boxes that lined the walls and spilled into her teensy living spaces. Also in cardboard lids, recycled Kleenex containers, drawers and scattered on table tops. Bills and medical statements mixed in. Foil packs of albuterol buried. While fetching her things (coffee, lunch, address book), I constantly tripped over some box or other. Consolidation, not allowed. I felt a constant, smoldering resentment of all her fucking paper.

So here’s one of many contradictions: how could a visual person, a former artist of some promise, someone still interested in images of nature, interior design, archeology, ancient religious iconography, ALSO be a person who let her living space look like a literal dump?

(For the first three or four years in Salem apartment Number One, at the outset of every visit, my sister would make the same cheery-but-shame-filled queries: “Doesn’t it look better? Can you tell I’ve made progress?”

Me: nearly speechless with disbelief, sputtering some lame agreement).

So you’d think I’d be standing at the recycling bin, chucking it all with a flourish. A big exhalation of relief. Garbage at last! But here’s the second contradiction: I’m not.

The above assemblage represents just a third of the images she pulled while at the nursing home. She couldn’t sit up. Had no scissors. Knew she was dying. But she kept at it.

As for myself, being a collage artist who also sometimes uses images as writing prompts, I view these papers as a treasure trove.

My sister’s legacy.

The second they assume an ugly weight, which might be tomorrow, I’ll recycle.

But not yet.

19 thoughts on “The Clip Files, Intro

  1. Nancy

    Oh Dee! I agree, not trash, yet! Her artistic eye hampered only by her illness of hoarding and immobility. These are a window to her soul and will be quite telling (I do believe) as you move through them…useful to you as a collage artist as well. Perhaps, finally, some sort of agreement, some sort of collaboration between the two of you. Her comments of trying to please through cleaning up really touched me. Don’t decide all at once, there is no need. xoxo

    1. deemallon Post author

      You who have recently handled and sorted so much know things! I have a stuffed garage. What’s a few more boxes? Right off the bat, I want to make a few writing prompt folders. Recipes: gone. Xerox black and whites: gone. But Virgins and Sphinxes and dragons? They will get more consideration.

  2. grace Maestas

    this is such a Rich and deep and complex post, telling so much, asking such question. Have read it 3 times so far this morning, will continue through the day.

    1. deemallon Post author

      Yes. And when you add a body that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, it’s even worse to contemplate.

  3. Jen

    She had a great eye for images. As a collage artist also, I’m afraid I’d end up dragging 15 banker’s boxes of clipped images home. Do your best and don’t let any part of this release drag you down. You’ve already been there. Thanks for sharing your very personal journey with us.

    1. deemallon Post author

      I’m hoping that the importation of some of my sister’s grand catalog will fuel gift making, collage making AND a brutal reassessment of the clutter in my studio. Some tributes to her, too.

  4. grace Maestas

    if i came across these boxes at a thrift shop or a yard sale, i would feel like it was THE

    1. deemallon Post author

      Well and wait’ll you see more. Very consistent themes culled from across varied print publications together tell an amazing story. Certainly one larger than life. Her life.

  5. Deborah Lacativa

    I’d like to un-know everything about her and relearn her through her choice of images. The colors speak to me. As to “cleaning up” after another life? I still haven’t figured it out after five years. I have a garage, a spare room and two-thirds of the living room that look much like Noreen’s space.

    1. deemallon Post author

      Before two friends and I said metta yesterday (first, for ourselves, then for my sister, then for our circle, next for all sentient beings and finally for the earth), there had been a fair amount of talk, most of it pained recollections. And then I pulled out the images. And we all got such a different feel for who this person, my sister, was. It was balancing, somehow. Made the prayers bigger.

      As to clutter and mess, I’ll just say, it’s hard. If memories attach, even harder. Part of why the clip files are problematic is because we still haven’t sorted stuff from when K’s parents downsized.

  6. Dana

    I share a certain aesthetic sense with my sisters and find it to be a firm and comforting part of our bond. That Noreen’s collection should speak to you is not surprising. That it is both a burden and a gift seems like an echo of your relationship. I hope it will help you sort out her legacy to you in a way that will bring you peace.

  7. Anonymous

    Dee a Blessing and Burden .. I have no doubt that you will create some amazing collages. The collections of subjects seem Amazing !

  8. Nanette

    What a rich and deep sense of her inner self she must’ve had, that these images spoke to her, were a reflection perhaps of that inner self, that she felt compelled to keep them near, keep gathering as close to the end as she could. I keep going back to look at them, such an amazing array.

  9. Michael

    Moving post Dee. What an expansive collection of images your sister built up over the years. They express so much, placed next to one another — it’s breathtaking. Hoping that some can indeed fuel some collage making.

  10. planetaryvibrations

    Exceptional images. Please keep some of them. I am inspired by every image you posted. I could turn them into paintings, quilts,collages whatever. Paper is a fiber. Fiber artists tend to have big stashes of cloth, wood, fibers of all kinds, and paper. It’s a burden, for sure but I am so glad to see the beauty in it as well. Thinking of you everyday and sending my love. Call me anytime to talk and let me know if I can help again! Love, Melissa


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