The KNOM Volunteer House is a lot like Mary Poppins’ handbag: it’s bigger than it looks from the outside (which is saying a lot considering the house is huge), and it’s full of things— all sorts of things, for every occasion you could possibly imagine.
The problem with living inside a bottomless handbag is that things get mixed up in there over the years. Vinyl, VHS tapes, books, pillows, photos, unicorns, Viking helmets (?), and countless plastic Christmas trees run amok from room to room, seeking refuge from new groups of volunteers who don’t know what to make of all this stuff.
Every group of volunteers arrives and tidies up their new home, maybe paints a room or moves some furniture, but there are always all those things that we don’t know what to make of: proclivities in taste, long-lost inside jokes, memories that belong not to us, but a collective of our kind. It’s hard to make a judgment of whether or not there is room for it in the house we all shared. So until now, we’ve kept it all. For generations we’ve stuffed it in empty rooms, closets, and cabinets, but our Mary Poppins bag of a house can take it no more. It’s at full capacity; a big problem considering we have a new group of volunteers heading our way.
In the interest of the imminent arrival of the 2014-2015 crew, we (old) volunteers spent this past weekend cleaning and purging the house to make room for the new volunteers.
It all started with the sorting: trash, recyclables (a relatively new option to Nome), give-away, and keepsakes. Zach picked some music and took command of the project. Emily posted a list of things we were giving away on Nome Announce (like Craigslist, but for Nome) and I sat in the living room sorting through paper recyclables, in mourning.
The stuff we got rid of wasn’t mine, but it sure felt like it was. I’ve moved around a lot, in some cases I move more than once in the same year, so spending two years of my life in the same house is kind of a big deal. I have an unfortunate tendency towards sentimentality, which makes tasks like cleaning and sorting a bit difficult. My normally practical and analytical self takes a back seat when she’s faced with pictures and memories, even if they’re not mine. Next thing I know I’m crying out,
These albums will be worth something some day! I’ll listen to these, some day! Come back here! What are you doing with that purple lobster? I got that for my birthday, I think! It’s purple, we can’t throw it out. Wait, what are you doing with all those books? Don’t you dare get rid of our books!! Drop ’em or I’ll eat you! I mean it, drop ’em!!
I didn’t mean it. No one got eaten. And most of the house books found a temporary home. We managed to clean and empty the extra rooms and organize the pantry. Our albums found good homes with trusted locals, and I survived a few trips down memory lane.
Looking through pictures of past volunteers, I can’t help but compare their experiences to mine. Some of these individuals still live in Nome. Some are still at the station. Why did some leave? Why did some stay? Why did others come back? What makes Nome so special that our kind, KNOM volunteers, keep coming back? I hear about the rubber band effect all the time, with the warning: you will be next.
My next adventure is right around the corner, but my time in Nome is not over. I have more spots to record and mix. Breakfast Wednesday must go on, as well as my other Morning Show segments, a photo contest, and an upcoming trip to Barrow soon.
I still plan to find time to hang some photos around the house, portraits of past volunteers and their time in Nome, and perhaps leave a few helpful things of my own for future volunteers to unpack.