My ex-hubster just sold his house. I still had some things stored in his garage, so spent an afternoon clearing them out. It was an interesting experience.
Stored on a high shelf were four medium sized boxes filled with things that I hadn’t seen for years. They were from my “Japan life.”
When I left Japan, I moved to Austria. I went through the stuff that had built up in my Tokyo apartment (positively minimal by today’s standards) and shipped a box of things to Vienna.
These were the things I thought I couldn’t live without.
I’d settled into an apartment owned by my in-laws by the time the box arrived in Vienna. Six-months later, I moved to London. I packed up my things, added a few more treasures from the Vienna stay, and stored the boxes at the in-laws’ house. I figured I’d get them soon.
I visited Vienna but kept telling myself I’d get those boxes later. My life was so transient. I had nowhere to put them.
Fifteen years after I left Tokyo, I had the boxes shipped to my new house in Sydney.
I didn’t have time to open them. I stored them in the garage.
More time passed. My marriage ended. I moved a few times. The shape of my family changed. And then recently my ex put our old home on the market.
And I found myself in his garage going through the things I couldn’t live without… but clearly had.
Four boxes of STUFF. Four boxes of things and bits and pieces and books and memorabilia. And I realised, none of it meant anything to me any more.
I spent the afternoon searching through those four boxes looking for one thing. The final letter my grandmother ever sent me. I knew it was there. I’d placed it in one box after her death.
I searched and searched. I began to panic as each box was emptied and nothing important could be found. I barely glanced at most of the stuff. The one thing that was important was missing.
Finally I found it. The letter was tucked into the back of an old address book. The paper is so fragile now, the ink faded. I sobbed as I read it. She’d died while I was overseas. The one thing she’d left for me disappeared, taken by other family members. This letter is what I have now.
I could still hear her voice, her laugh as she wrote it, pretending to scold me over my previous letter to her. “I’m sure we brought the wrong baby home from the hospital when we got you. But don’t worry, we love you anyway.”
And signing off… “You are my first thought in the morning, my last thought at night. I love you.”
There are things… and then there are things. That letter is a treasure to me. It is the one thing I’m keeping from four boxes of stuff. It has made me re-evaluate what things are important. What things I hold dear.
There are very few things really.