Artifacts Uncovered in an Archaeological Excavation at My Parents’ House

Artifacts Uncovered in an Archaeological Excavation at My Parents’ House


Wizard Air Freshener. When we lived in Duluth, our next-door neighbor Grace was an elderly woman whose hoarding tendencies had run amok since her shipping-baron husband had died. My mom helped Grace keep her house livable despite the fact that some of Grace’s rooms were literally—and I don’t use that word lightlyfilled from floor to ceiling with piles of stuff she’d accumulated. Mom’s compensation was a continual stream of household goods from as far back as the 1960s. If we’d saved those historic household goods for eBay, my parents could be retired now—but being Gablers, we just used ’em as though we’d bought ’em on sale at Walgreens. In fact, we’re still using them. This bottle remains in active use in my parents’ bathroom. The scent is tall timber, “with the man in mind.”

Medical device. I was horrified to find this in a bedroom. My mom said it’s a device for testing lung capacity, and that she had to use it after her back surgery.

Time Out With Britney Spears videocassette. Britney was my brother’s celebrity crush. Bonus: The case includes a Jive2K cassette sampler.

Harvard monkey. I went to grad school for sociology at Harvard, where the sociology department is located in the same building as the psychology department. Among the active labs when I was a grad student was a monkey lab that drew protests and forced building lockdowns (though the real monkey business turned out to involve the data, which was apparently being falsified by the principal investigator, a professor who resigned after his shenanigans wer exposed). There was also a baby lab, where infants were strapped into chairs and their eye movements tracked. As a prize for the kids’ participation, they were given little souvenir monkeys wearing Harvard Laboratory for Developmental Studies t-shirts. My friend Nancy worked in the lab; she nabbed this monkey for me, and I asked her to autograph it.

Giant bottle of cologne. When I was out east, my dad would have me stop by a little perfume shop in Cambridge (“We have absolutely no common scents!”) to buy very expensive bottles of a cologne he’d discovered during his Navy days while stationed in Italy. It occurred to my mom that the scent might be available online, and when she found it, she bought the value size. My dad is quite confident this will last him until the end of his days.

Duluth Savings and Loan sign. When I was a kid, I ran a mostly-imaginary (we did get a 50-cent deposit from Uncle Bill) savings and loan out of our basement in Duluth; when we moved to St. Paul, I brought and reinstalled the custom signage I’d made. Our mascot was an anthropomorphized DULUTH. Also still in my parents’ possession: the name plate that sat on my desk as president of the DS&L.

Hole-ridden Great Outdoors advertisement. I’m guessing we pulled this giant videotape case (note correspondingly huge bar code) out of the trash at our local video store, Home Video. We installed it on the basement wall and used it as a dartboard.

Dad vs. Mom videotape. Dad went through a phase where he’d go to Best Buy and purchase packs of their most expensive archival VHS tapes (“Super Avilyn”), which he’d use to record war shows off basic cable. I spent untold hours of my adolescence going through these tapes and precisely marking the start and end times of each show; I don’t remember whether I was paid for this. Eventually Dad lost interest in that project, and let Mom use the tapes to record movies over them; Mom then cataloged the tapes using her own system that involved numbering the tapes and maintaining a three-ring binder with lists of movies by cassette number and alphabetically by title. This one went from holding Reaching for the Skies—Part II, B-52, and British Bomber Run (as labeled by Dad on the case) to becoming Mom’s tape #197 and holding Losing Isaiah and Executive Decision.

Mysterious canning device. My parents bought, from my grandparents, the house my dad grew up in. My grandmother was into canning, and this artifact of that activity remains mounted in the basement.

My Rollerblades. In the early days of The Tangential, we talked a lot about founding a Rollerblading guild. If and when that ever happens, I now know where to find my wheels.

Dog head desk lamp. My aunt used to work at a furniture store, and she gave this display model to my sister, who used it for years. This was as close as my family ever came to owning a dog, unless you count the time I dressed as Snoopy for Halloween.

Indian chief linoleum. This survives in the attic, a match of the linoleum that covered the floor of the bedroom my dad and my uncle shared when they were growing up. They thought they were badass with this stuff on their floor.

1970s jigsaw puzzle. I’ve never tried doing a puzzle while high, but I’ll bet it’s not easy.

Jay Gabler

  • drkam6 .

    The Wizard Tall Timber air freshener can is amazing. I am actually looking for one. Since I was a kid the photo of the trees with the sun rays mesmerized me, I’d love to know the source of that photo. Perfect for an album cover!