From one pile, tiny infant twins grin gummy smiles at the camera. Abel is slightly blurry in most of his baby photos; he was never still.
Next to it is a pile of my beloved books from college: Keats, Irish mythology, Penguin copies of medieval women’s writings. Also, there’s the missing third of the Earthsea trilogy!
On the table I’ve set hand-painted tiles of the twins’ handprints, and a mug painted by Elliot for Donn, Christmas ‘97.
There’s my first passport, from when I was 8, and my report card from Grade 4. It’s all A’s except for PE, and yet I remember worrying if I would pass. There’s a copy of my parent’s wedding invitation, and a newspaper clipping about their world-tour honeymoon, from the small town in Kansas where they visited so that my dad’s family could meet his new bride.
This box has my grandmother’s Royal Doulton china, over 100 years old now, and the mugs my mother bought my kids on one of her visits to Wales.
I must stop this because you are bored. But I’m not. I’m endlessly fascinated by these leftovers of my own life. My baby book! (first tooth—7 months) Donn’s baby book! (kinda boring, frankly. Who cares that he had extreme separation anxiety and wouldn’t take a bottle?)
We made great progress after the container came. Within 2-3 days, we were unpacked and moved in. Then we started collecting boxes from our friends.
When we went overseas 10 years ago, we got rid of everything, it felt like. We just left a few things in Heather and Paul’s attic and in the closet of Janean’s spare bedroom and under Dave and Sally’s stairs. But apparently these boxes have grown and multiplied. I’m a bit chagrined at how many there seem to be. And still they come! I’d forgotten about the stuff Amy’s parents took, not to mention that Kevin mentioned we’d left boxes at their place. We did? I still don’t remember. Perhaps we gave them the boxes and they misunderstood.
And yet these things mean something to me. Unpacking has been a bit like Christmas. The antique postcards, sent by Donn’s great-great grandmother to his grandmother in 1907, the address nothing more than her name and town—no street, no zip code, nothing more. The pictures painted by my father. My first wedding ring (I’ve had one husband but 3 rings). Things I’d thought were lost.
For years, I’ve thought of myself as someone who could just pack up and go at a moment’s notice, but I look around at my full closets and realize I have weighted myself once more. I have hung memories on myself like necklaces; I have accumulated to myself once again this untidy heap of pictures and mugs and old wooden carvings and important papers. They pull me into this place; I am anchored. Anchors aren’t much thought of these days; we travel around the world in a day, our bodies dragging time zones behind. But they provide the opportunity to stay awhile, to sleep without worrying about crashing into rocks or losing your way. Anchors give you a chance to rest.
So I’m enjoying sorting, finding places for, and repacking my father’s old books, the Scottish doll I got for my second birthday, the photocopy of my grandfather’s naturalization certificate. Things that ground me in this place, ways to put down an anchor and stay for a while.