The last of my things from Alabama made their way to the Pacific Northwest by way of my mother’s shipment of her goods. After a quick trip to Portland, they sit in their “for-now” destination: my 836 sq. ft., fifth-floor apartment overlooking Mount Rainier. The view is delightful and the building is brand new, unlike my last long-term residence. As I tore open the boxes, excitement tore through me. I wondered what hid inside and anticipated the memories that would flood me. I couldn’t have been more let down.
Inside the first of two boxes, four towels revealed themselves. White and light green, the colors of my old bathroom in my old house during my old life. They wouldn’t match my new color scheme of grey and turquoise. After I pulled them to my face and inhaled the scent of my old life, I chucked them into the laundry to quickly wash out the musty smell. They hadn’t seen the light of day in 10 months, a fact made apparent by their smell.
Below the towels sat three power strips. I can’t fathom the thought process I went through that led to these being hauled some 2,600 miles. It was one of two scenarios. Either I thought I would need them and unlike my usual way, I was being smart and saved them. Or, and most likely, they ended up in the box as I was shoving shit during the last panicked moments before it was time to leave.
Next came a white bankers box, which held pictures neatly held in frames. Mom and me in DC when she started at the Department of State smiled from a purple wooden frame. Next came a red fabric beaded frame in which mom was posing holding a map in a German town. My mother’s inability to use a map is legendary amongst my brothers and me. Maps are more often wrong and she is most often right. Christopher tells a great story of Mom and him in a small Australian town and her slapping him with the map when they missed a turn. It should be noted that they were both full grown adults in this instance and being lost in a foreign country (if you can call Australia that) was off putting. I was happy to uncover a picture of me on a rural beach in Australia. I’m wearing khaki shorts and a blue shirt. It’s before 9/11 – eight months before the world completely changed. The smile on my face showcases an innocence we all lost. The frame itself is a thin piece of wood with aboriginal art – the dots they’re known for – and a hand drawn kangaroo. Australia was my happiest time. I went twice. And to see this moment right now brings joy and sadness to me.
Beneath the pile of frames sat four pairs of shoes. Two were summer shoes – a pair of Yellow Box flip flops that I was so relieved to see, I nearly squealed – the other pair a slivery shiny set as flat was they are comfortable. Accompanying them were two pairs of high heels that I didn’t even know I missed. And as missed as they were, they’ve got no place in my new life. I’d worn these shoes with suits, when I had to pose for pictures with a big check and make comments of congratulations. I don’t do that anymore. Now work shoes are steel-toed boots, sneakers, or casual flats. I left the heels in the box and put it away in the laundry room.
Pieces of our past don’t always fit in our new lives. My life has reinvented itself more times than I can count and it’s not done yet. I’m glad for my past – even the musty towels and shoes I’ll no longer wear. I’m most excited about my future – and can’t wait to see what I’ll find in those yet-unopened boxes.