There comes a time when one’s parents decide to move and they tell you, “Come take your stuff. All of it.” Somehow, and might I add, expertly, I had avoided having to lug my entire childhood around from apartment to apartment and city to city; I had prolonged the inevitable well into my 30s. But alas, that dreaded phone call came, and off I went to Colorado last week with empty luggage en tow.
I was expecting to sift through the college papers, high school recruiting letters and dusty trophies I’d gotten used to perusing whenever I went home. I figured I’d part with some old VHS tapes and cassettes,
dump my collection of premiere issues of magazines (a slight obsession of mine)
and say goodbye to my XXL Champion sweatshirts featuring names of colleges I never attended.
But I came upon so much more than that. And I haven’t stopped thinking about it.
The five boxes and leather suitcase that greeted me in my old room contained many of the items I mentioned, but really, they contained the record of my life – the parts I wasn’t aware anyone had recorded or cared to save. And they contained the parts I barely remembered but that had once meant everything to me. Through all the sifting and discovery came side-splitting laughter and tears across a gamut of emotions. For in those boxes, I saw my reflection and I realized that at 30-something, I am exactly who I was at 4 years old. I just dress better now and have finally gotten rid of my braces and tamed my crazy hair.
I found records on everything from my week-by-week height and weight charts to the dates I first rolled over, sat up and proceeded to eat my own toes.
I demonstrated a sincere and sustained effort to win over both Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. On every note, I told them I loved them. Just to be super clear.
Aside from persuasion pieces, I liked to elucidate on self-improvement.
Beyond the notes and lists though, I found the proof of what I have always loved: Writing. Communicating. Making deep connections with my friends and working to sustain them no matter where they lived and in my favorite handwritten form.
I spent hours sitting there reading my letters from Olga and from a serviceman I wrote to during the Gulf War. And I wondered where they are now and if I should try to find them. Right before I arose to go Google them, I stumbled upon a packet of my nursery school report cards and found the answer to a question I have long since had about myself: Were there any signs when I was younger of the work I would ultimately take on, helping victims of a horrific crime? There had been no academic or career path that skewed toward human/health services. No interest in psychology or law. Yet there it was, a report from 1981 summarizing the inclinations of a 4-year-old too unsophisticated and unabashed to ever hide who she was.
I smiled, broad and tooth-filled. And then I cried. I loved the teacher’s description and the snapshot it provided of an age I do not recall. I felt relief. The volunteer work I do now takes a toll on me and I have sometimes doubted – if not for my being attacked, if I’d have taken on such a role. But the how and why of it doesn’t really matter. That piece of yellow paper was proof positive I was destined to do something good for people. It was a gift.
So, I hope all of you are fortunate enough to have your parents call you up and tell you to come take your belongings. Forget worrying about the possessions you might have to let go of or discard. I promise you, the treat is in what you will find.