Thursday, March 15, 2012

What to bring, what to leave behind.

My life, all 51 years of it, fits into 6 boxes. If there were an award for down-sizing I’d probably  be nominated for it. Naturally it would be a virtual award, as an actual award would take up valuable space and pretty much contradict the whole concept of down-sizing.

I have opened every box and taken everything out, turned it over in my hands and asked myself one question. How does this thing fit into my life now? I know what it meant at one time, because it’s in this box and not already at Goodwill or in the trash or gifted to someone I love. Those things I put into boxes hold memories of happiness and sadness, of birth and death, of love and hate, of excitement and anticipation and fear. It went into a box because I couldn’t bear the thought of losing the memory it held; that I felt I couldn’t recreate my memories without the help of those things.

I found something interesting in my year abroad. My memories are reawakened by the strangest things. A tiny, dark-eyed woman in a park yelling at her grandchildren in Italian reminds me of my slighty larger, very pink and white grandma only because of the way her watch sits on her wrist. A particular taste will remind me of a long-ago holiday with friends, which leads to the bigger memory of that friendship.

That’s a very comforting thought, that those memories don’t reside in one particular place or can only be conjured by a certain object. It means I can get rid of stuff and not feel that I’m leaving a lot of loose ends for someone else to manage for me. So I threw things away, gave other thinigs away, and sent yet more stuff to Goodwill.

Six boxes is probably still far too much, but right now  there are things I just can’t part with but can’t take with me because it costs too much and I just don’t have any storage space in Italy.

I have one dilemma. There’s a bag I want to bring with me, but don’t know if it’s worth the time and money to have it sent over. It’s an old., worn leather briefcase bag that hardly holds it’s shape and some of the leather is starting to stiffen up. In fact, there are places where the leather is worn off on the corners. It’s not attractive, but could be made beautiful again with a little love and care. Sadly, bags are for me what shoes are for some women. I feel that I’m abandoning a loved one.

More importantly, I got this bag right after I graduated from technical college in 1994. My degree meant that I wouldn’t have to waitress again unless I chose to. I could get a “real” job. My bag was my constant companion on job interviews and my working days. It carried my kids toys and snacks when I wasn’t at work. When I decided to go back to school for my bachelor’s degree it came with me again. I only stopped using it when I sold my car and started biking, because it just isn’t suited to cycling.

My bag.
I took it out this morning to get it ready for Goodwill. I pulled it towards me and opened it up (the latch always sticks a little). I held it on my  lap and ran my hands over the leather, feeling the little nicks and scratches and remembering when they happened. As I lifted the flap I could smell textbooks and sharpies and Teddy Grahams and old leather. I started emptying the pockets and sections. It’s like a time capsule. I found hightlighters from school, business cards from long ago collegues, the key for the lock (seriously, how could I NOT have lost that over the years?), and a small mountain of cracker crumbs. While some people might call me too sentimental, to me this bag is a symbol of my freedom. It has followed me everywhere except Italy.

Of course my practical side says that it’s old and ugly and not important enough to ship. Is that a strong enough argument for leaving it behind? Or is it the perfect accessory for building a new life? I would be willing to winnow my belongings even more and get rid of one more box of things if I decide to bring the bag with me. What to you think?

1 comment:

  1. I posted a comment but I must have said something wrong.

    What I did say I still mean, so I will try again.

    First of all, briefcase is "ie" not the way you have it, unless you have already changed it.

    But mostly, bring the briefcase. It is so full of your love and memories. What a shame it would be to abandon that part of you. You can find just a niche in your suitcase, filling it with clothes, etc. to show it took up little room. Bring it home and when you have time begin the process of showing it your love by rubbing the finishing oil to keep protecting it.

    If you find you just cannot do that, give it to me, please. I love you, and will takes it memories and build on them.

    But, I would rather have you do it.