She lives alone, but when you open the cupboards they’re filled with reminders of a growing family. They’re stocked full with jumbo size snacks and enough ziplock bags to last a growing family multiple lifetimes. Her kitchen, closets, and garage sit full of items gathering dust. They had purpose in their past life, before time ate the years away, before everyone moved on, leaving the house one by one.
We spend a weekend, all of us, hauling one thing after another from the garage and attic and basement. She wants to see every single item before making a decision if it should go or stay. Someone asks if we should invite the reality show Hoarders to join us, and we laugh and shake our heads, knowing all the while it is more than just stuff we heave into the dumpster. It is a lifetime of memories wrapped up in every tiny fiber, every broken toy, every collectible she saved from her own mother’s house.
In her home, we find boxes the mice have eaten away. They leave droppings and a shredded mess of newspaper and everywhere. I want to light my filthy clothes on fire when we finish. We survey the dumpster with shock at how much we threw away. Rubbish, all of it. She mourns it all, every shredded piece, every item that no longer works and serves no purpose. She mourns as if the memories have been torn like skin from the bones of the house.
When the weekend is over, and we return to our home, I see it all with new eyes. Everything we own supports the life we live right now, but it won’t always be so. Someday, the children will go and make homes of their own. The need for jumbo size snacks and kids books and board games will follow them right out the door, and I see how tempting it is to continue living as if they will come back. As if saving a closet full of their clothing will fill the beds again.
I want to live free of things, free from stuff upon stuff. The house will carry the echoes of our life here, but I want to build the memories into my own skin and bones–build them right into my flesh. I know the memories can’t reside where moth and rust will lay waste, where mice will eat away and destroy. I can’t relegate them to the attic and the basement. I must make room for them inside me. The memories must make their home in a corner of my heart, a place where no one will ever tear them away.
On Mondays, I write posts around the theme of Home and belonging. I hope you’ll join me. For regular updates, sign up below to have posts delivered straight to your inbox.