Recently I traveled back up north to sort through and collect personal belongings of a loved one who passed away earlier this year. On the plane ride home, I attempted busying my thoughts with something other than, please, please no turbulence and why are we packed in so close, that I can see the drool of the person sleeping next to me? So, I began to ponder the unsettling notion that someday, someone, would look through the belongings in my home or storage place after I am gone. That person may look at it and realize no matter how much you know someone you can’t possibly know everything about him/her.
We have all bought that exercise equipment that is now a clothing rack or the work out videos/DVDs(you know the ones- like Belly Dancing Your Way to Zumba) that are now in a crate along with your hospital bill for that one time you tried Belly Dancing Your Way to Zumba, but ended up in the ER. Those are items we all can relate to. However, there are some items such as books on how to master a particular craft that you never saw that person do(nor ever heard him mention), or CDs on how to learn a language you had no idea he wanted to learn that may surprise you. Attached to each of these personal items, he stored away ideas, dreams, and a hope that someday his dreams would come to fruition when the timing was right.
Why is that we keep certain objects? What is it that makes us value one item over another? I am still fleshing out my characters in my current rough draft. So I am trying to pinpoint his/her favorite belongings. While trying to figure out what they cannot live without, I need to develop some reasons why they can’t live without it. Is it a treasured item because it is sentimental or is it an item that is practical like a flashlight? I may never use this information directly in the story, but it gives me one way to get inside the characters’ head and heart. This process will come in handy when I want to create some turmoil for the character– what happens when this item is lost, stolen, or destroyed? Are they able to develop coping mechanisms, do they give up, or seek revenge?
Of course there are some items you can never get back. When my mom’s home in Hiroshima was destroyed by the bomb, all current pictures of her and her family were burned. However, she still had her memories of the people in her life. Also, thankfully some pictures of when she was younger were in a different location.
Then there are the items that are one of a kind. When we were young we most likely latched on to a particular doll or stuffed animal. Mine was Raggedy Ann and believe me by the time I was 5 she was definitely very ragged indeed. My mom had just sewed pantyhose around the face for the third time to keep the cloth from falling off and protect what was left of her hair(I yanked most of it out-not sure what that says about me), so, my parents bought me another Raggedy Ann doll. I did not play with that new doll. I wanted the original doll –with its balding head and nylon covered tattered face.
I did not learn from my experience, because when I found out what stuffed animal my daughter loved I went out and bought an identical one in case she lost it. When I would wash her bear, I would attempt to switch it out and she would have none of that-she knew it was not her original “stuffie”. I then did what every logical parent would do in that situation. I waited till she was sound asleep, washed it immediately, and hoped to return it before she would realize it was missing. That worked most of the time.
We were attached to these items for the feeling of security they brought us. As I looked through my loved one’s storage unit, I found items that linked him to his birth mother which he never got to really know because she died when he was a toddler. That gave him a sense of security. Also, I found all the letters/cards that I had ever sent him. Some back to when I was only 8 years old. He also had all the cards my daughter had made for him in the past 18 years. It made me smile because he found them important to keep because we mattered to him.
So even though I had no idea he wanted to master Chinese, or why he had all these cook books when he did not cook, I did know he loved us. Well, I knew that already because he had told me many times, but it reminded me that I did not need to know every aspect of his life to be important in his life. So I hope someday when people look at my stuff in storage, they find among the “what was she thinking?” stuff, some mementos that remind them of their importance in my life.
So, tell me, what’s in your storage?
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