While doing an assignment for a different class, this story came to mind, and then it hit me that in a way, it represented a form of curating. One day last winter, I left my friend’s apartment to head home around five in the morning. As I’m walking down his stairs, I see an old woman digging through his dumpster. She notices me and very happily says, “Goodmorning! Or goodnight, for you.” We proceeded to talk until 6:30. My first assumption was that she was homeless, but on the contrary, her explanation for digging through the garbage was that she simply “can’t see any good thing go to waste.” She does this every single morning, waking through the entire town, searching through people’s trash. Apparently, her entire outfit was made up of clothes she had found, boots, mittens and scarf included. She told me she didn’t have much money, and that while her children were growing up, she often gave them clothes that she found and washed and repaired. She claimed the hobby has made her very crafty, able to fix almost any appliance. The entire town knows her, and knows she can find anything. “If you need a vacuum, I’ll get you a vacuum.” She told me one example in particular, where in passing she heard of an 80-year-old woman who lived alone and ate all of her food cold because she falls asleep often and is afraid to do so with the stove on. Brenda went out on her daily morning search, found a microwave, cleaned it and made it look brand new, and then set out to find this woman, whom she had never even met, and gave her this microwave so she could heat up her food. She’s lived in New Paltz her entire life and was reminiscing about what it used to be like back in the day, while simultaneously picking up the random remnants of drunken students off Main Street from the night before. I expected her to be annoyed by our wasted remains scattered all over after having just explained what New Paltz was like before it became a college town. To my surprise, she simply laughed and said “Look at all this, it’s just so fun!” If I am half as content with life as this woman when I’m her age, I will be more than satisfied.
Anyway, this woman is a curator in her own right. She literally digs through a plethora of material, and carefully differentiates between what can be saved and what can’t. She bases these decisions off of the quality of what she finds, as well as the needs of the people in her life. If someone wants a specific something, Brenda will search this town up and down until she finds it. She said that even if no one needs anything at the time, but finds something that can be fixed or put to use, she will take it home nonetheless, because someone will need it eventually. Needless to say, this encounter was as adorable as it was interesting.