Important Stuff

I'm not sure where the footlocker came from.  Growing up, it was always in our attic.  After I got married, I packed it up with important stuff and took it with me.  We used it as a coffee table in our first apartment.  Before our next move, I opened it.  I couldn't imagine why I had wanted to save that stuff so I cleared it all out and repacked it with some truly remarkable things.  We never opened it in Santa Fe.  In Chippewa Falls, we used it as an end table.  I forgot what I had packed in there and when I opened it one day I found my wedding dress and a bunch of stuff I threw in the pile for Goodwill.  Before we moved to Appleton, I realized it was the perfect size to fill with all the photos and letters I had collected over the past seven years, all the art work and postcards I had tacked to our bedroom wall, all the kids' memorabilia from their first years of school.  As I packed it, I imagined opening it, years from now, and instead of being disappointed, being full of joy, all those lost memories, coming back to life.

Friday, we left for the weekend, the kids having a couple days off school.  We drove across the state, to visit our friends in their new house in River Falls.  We spent the sunny days walking around town and the evenings lounging in our friend's living room, laughing and playing with their 18 month old.

We didn't drive back into town until almost 8 on Sunday night, so I had my husband take me directly to the kora concert at the university.  By the time I came home everyone was already asleep.  The smell in the kitchen made me realize I had forgotten to take out the trash before leaving for our weekend.  I went down to the basement to turn up the hot water heater and discovered that the basement was flooded.  Apparently, I had also left one of the toilets running.

The next morning I thought about the footlocker.  We put on rubber boats and waded through the basement.  A. helped me carry it to the stairs but we couldn't get it all the way up because it was too heavy.  So we set it down and opened it up, many years before I had thought we would.  A few things on top were dry.  The rest was soaked through.

We filled the living room and dining room with photographs we peeled apart and set out to dry.  They curled like fallen leaves.  The kids ran about, pointing and laughing and fighting over them, saying wouldn't that be cool if we taped them all over the walls.  The rest of the stuff from the footlocker I dumped in a black plastic bag that I'll take to the curb for the garbage truck to pick up on Thursday morning.  I lamented the loss of a few love letters from the early days of marriage.  And a little book I'd made with my second child, one day when we had nothing better to do than draw pictures together.  Of course, if I hadn't found it, soaked and bled through, if that foot locker would have just disappeared, I wouldn't have remembered what I had stored there, and probably would have assumed, like the other times, that I had out-grown the need for whatever I had thought at one time was so important to hold onto.

1 comment:

  1. How fragile is our connection with the past....How evocative the shards of that past that we manage to save...and how fleeting the meanings we make of them as they are discovered, rediscovered, found, and ultimately lost.

    Grandpa John...who picks through the clutter of the past, sometimes for a living, sometimes for life.