What memories linger once a chapter closes?

My parents finally found a buyer who wants my childhood home.

It shouldn’t really matter. I don’t live there anymore, nor have I for the last 20 years.

But it does.

Because packing up my life into boxes has been like unraveling a story, bit by labeled Polaroid bit.  This week I traveled through a wormhole into a different world that was somehow, incredibly me.

It is no wonder that an hourglass is made with sand. Moments pass through my fingers like tiny grains that fold into each other—one tumbling into the other. Indistinguishable. Packable. Like papers going into a box.

My old desk drawers hold letters that I have not seen in years. I pluck the curled notes like leaves off a tree in autumn.  Every crackling, yellowed paper that I unfold reminds me of the girl that I was: loved, weird, quirky, funny, emotional, confused. Somewhere between obsessing over my pimples and my relationships I grew up.

Every item examined has history and meaning. Often I must remind myself that objects only carry the meaning that we give them. Nothing more and nothing less. That if I lived without these things comfortably, happily for so long without recalling their existence, I would manage just fine without them. Until now.

Because now I revisit them—and their significance looms again.

The memories of my dad, my grandmother, and others who left this world years ago awaken with a stretch and a yawn. Cards that they wrote preserve my grandmother’s quick wit—ever quipped with a line to make us all laugh—and my father’s love. How do I throw out such messages? In one, my grandmother wrote: “Good-bye. We’ll see each other soon.”

The words feel like hands reaching across the dimensions—touching me. Like they’re not really so far away after all. In fact, they seem to be lingering right at the end of a Hallmark card. And the dull ache of missing them returns. Like that.

Then there are the photos. Who was that young girl with the oh-so-dated perm and Sun-In-bleached hair? Can she really be me?  Memories, like wine, morph with age—often sweetened or embittered, yet seasoned from being locked up in a barrel in a cool dark cellar.

At times I simply walk the halls just because I can. My hands reach out to touch the walls and make a lasting impression on my palms. How can I imprint this memory into my heart? The feelings of being a baby, a little girl, a teenager, a young woman, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, and a new mother all at once rush back to me. The rooms echo with our laughter, our grief, our fights, and our play.

How do I bottle this feeling and pack it up with me?

Would it fit neatly into a box? Somehow, I don’t think so.

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