I am such a sucker for minimalism. I love the whole concept, I love the inherent permission the movement gives you to release the things that no longer serve you. It’s a metaphor! I get it you guys!
There is something so lovely in how we refer to our things as our belongings, our possessions. They are yours and you are theirs, isn’t it true?
Everything I own is stuffed in a storage unit somewhere in Central Texas. All of my belongings. My coffee mug. The sheets from my bed. The shower curtain that I would whip over the rod so my baby wouldn’t yank on it during his bath. The process left me and every surface in that bathroom soaked. I remember being so irritated by it, having to constantly wipe things all over my home because they were being spilled upon by the little bodies that lived there with me. I had no idea what a luxury it would seem, to the lady I am now, to wipe up milk off the table and stack the cereal bowls that my stepmother bought for me at a yard sale when I moved into my first apartment. I miss my bowls. I miss the messes.
I have one prized blue glass jar.
I know that I am supposed to count my blessings. I don’t need to be told that though, I already do that. I already know that people are more important than things, and I am brought to my knees at times with this constant practice in humility and gratitude for my family, who have opened their homes to my little displaced crew in our time of need. I am so grateful for them. I am so grateful that I have my children and we have our health. I am so grateful that we are together, that the heart of our home stayed alive with us on our journey.
Still, none of that stops me from missing my things. I want to go home. I don’t have one of those anymore.
I still miss my belongings and the things that possessed me. I can exist in both spaces, gratitude for what I have and longing for what I don’t. This whole experience has been so eye opening. I wonder if I would ever have known how much I love that stupid jar if I didn’t have to leave it behind. I wonder if I ever would have known how much I loved cleaning my kitchen. I took so much for granted, without even realizing it.
People say that sort of thing all the time but usually they’re talking about a person they loved and lost, and not a purple paisley box in the bathroom closet that was filled with all the play makeup and costume eyelashes and sparkly barrettes that would entertain my daughter when it was too hot to attempt playing outside during those seemingly endless summers in Texas. My memories of that place are hazy and hot, as if through a dream filter. Everything in Texas is bleached yellow or burned. The trees were all wrong there.
In December, around Christmas when my nearly ex husband drove up from Texas to…I don’t know what he thought he was doing actually. But he drove across the country and he filled the back of his car with such a random assortment of things to present to us. The vacuum cleaner. My coffee maker and the red coffee grinder that lived next to it on our counter, the one whose cord is permanently coiled now after I have wrapped it around and around the base so many times while chatting on the phone or shouting at a child to find their shoes as we rush about in the morning. There’s a pretty metal coffee scoop that my brother and sister gave me for Christmas one year. It has wire wrapped around the end of it and a little pearl-like jewel where I always rest my thumb. I think of them every single time I start my coffee ritual. He didn’t bring the scoop, but that’s not really the point.
He brought bags of clothes that I had meant to give to Goodwill and which had been sitting in Ben’s bedroom closet for probably six months before we ever left Texas. I laughed out loud at the absurdity. This is something I am so annoyed with myself about, it is such a stupid, bad habit of mine to let donation bags pile up. I’m constantly trying to de-clutter and am bagging things up and putting them in a closet to be brought to a donation center… and then I never bring them. Literally never. I try and try and somehow they just end up back in the closet. Sometimes I get them to the front door and think I’ll bring them out to the car on my way out, but I never get around to it. Actually I’m realizing now it’s because I was never allowed to drive anywhere or go anyplace by myself, and my hands were always full of children and car seats and diaper bags, and by the time I got them into the car to get where we were going, we were already late, and he’d say “Just get them next time, we have to go!”
Those donation bags are fucking haunting me, you guys.
I started to feel wistful as I surveyed these items in the back of the car. Covered in dog hair, reeking of cigarette smoke. I frowned at the carelessness. Doesn’t he love our things? Why am I even asking myself that question anymore?
I hadn’t cried the whole entire time. Not once, not at all. After he left and the kids were in bed, I was up pacing, probably drinking, and I crept into my aunt’s basement where these items were tossed in a pile. I ran my hand over Isla’s owl pillow and was so happy he brought it for her. I unzipped the pillowcase to straighten out the insert that was all bunched up but instead of the insert I found a throw pillow from my own bed. Small and rectangular, white canvas with messy black geometric patterns scribbled all over it. I bought it because it looked like my old math notebooks, the ones where I would doodle and scribble and not learn any math.
I couldn’t believe how delighted I was to find that little stowaway hiding in there. Little pillow, you are a sight for sore eyes!
That’s when the lump started to form in my throat.
Next was a box filled with my books. I started to roll my eyes, annoyed that he had chosen my books to bring but not the kids’ books. Instead I found myself sobbing. I picked them up and smelled them and said hello to all of them, found the bookmarks I tucked into the pages. Scraps of paper, one had an actual birthday card in it that I somehow thought should serve as a bookmark. A receipt from the Walgreen’s around the corner from our old house. I imagined myself grabbing the receipt off the kitchen counter while stuffing it into the book, rushing to attend some emergency, like sprinting to the back door to let the dog in before his howling woke up the baby (again).
Seeing pieces of my home like that just fucking gutted me.
I was so confused. Dread started to creep in and so I started to float away. I stepped out of my body and tucked myself into the rafters to watch this scene unfold from a safe distance. I saw myself close my eyes and wince as the words rushed into me all at once.
You think seeing your BOOKS here feels strange and wrong? Your children are sleeping two floors up wearing borrowed pajamas in a room that isn’t theirs. You are actually, literally, homeless. Your whole life is in pieces. This is an emergency. This is a crisis. There is no comfort from home in this pile, wipe that grin off your face. This stuff is shrapnel. You are a fool.
Tonight at bedtime, Isla sleepily asked if we were going to say a prayer. I asked what she meant because we don’t pray. Did someone pray with her? Did she see it on a show? She shrugged and seemed embarrassed. I wanted to give her at least something, so I told them both that tonight was the new moon and since we don’t pray we could try to set some intentions that we want to see grow, just as the moon will become larger each night until it’s full. I told them that setting intentions is like planting a seed. It’s not magic, it’s just ritual. We plant our seeds together when we say them out loud, care for them as a family. I started with a seed for adventure, because we deserve to experience something new that isn’t traumatizing or pure chaos. It’s a no brainer.
Ben planted a seed for his stuffed penguin to learn to talk.
I planted seeds for bravery, patience and silliness. Ben planted seeds for ‘people who live in the trash’ to get one thousand dollars and have a house to go into. He planted another seed for people in jail to have kindness and say sorry, and get to go home to their families and have jobs give them money. I guess my six year old is planting seeds for prison reform and an end to homelessness.
I started tentatively plating seeds for our future home. It makes them sad to think about their things, but I don’t want them to forget either. I planted a seed for the kids to have their kitchen stools in our new home, wherever it ends up being. I want to have them helping me at the counter while music plays and there’s a great big mess everywhere because we are too busy being happy and having fun to care much about things like that.
“We used to do that at home!” Ben said.
“I know! And we’re going to do it again.”
“I can’t wait. Can Thomas have a kitchen stool, too?”
“Yeah of course! It’ll be our house. We can have whatever we want.”