Saturday, February 18, 2012

The things I have

I am thankful to Babcock for referring to me as "Uncle Kyle" to his boys Carter and Jackson. I am thankful to Marla for so often being a destination in my travels. I am thankful to Davey for always offering to "legally proofread" all that I write. I am thankful to Harley for giving endless lumber conversation and nerdy power point documents. I am thankful to Mathew for helping shape my awareness. I am thankful to Janira for following her gut. I am thankful to Richard for his book suggestions and travel stories. I am thankful to Aunty Paula for sharing Wurthering Heights with me though I never got the chance to read it. I am thankful to Bonita for loving me. I am thankful to Ant Liz for taking me to Fantasia, giving me Forever Plaid, sharing Phantom, and introducing me to Joseph. I am thankful to Neal for asking me to stand in his wedding. I am thankful to Uncle Dan for inviting me into his home even when he was exhausted. I am thankful to Sam, Dan, Helina and Jess for creating the soundtrack of my move to New York. I am thankful to Monica from Cork City for suggesting that I get off at 59th, exit on the south, and walk down 5th avenue. I am thankful to my Father for trying to understand and support me, even when sometimes he doesn't quite comprehend me. I am thankful to my mum, for she is simply the best one could ask for.

These are things that I have been given, things that I own. I am blessed for these gifts. They are things that I have in my life that are passionate and wonderful. They cannot be taken from me but only by my own memory's betrayal.

When I decided to move to New York I was saddled with the task of minimizing my possessions. I never quite realized how many things I had until I was forced to minimize my things down to the contents of a dresser, 3 suitcases and a backpack. This may seem like a good amount of stuff, but for me - or anyone like me - this was quite the drastic reduction. Seven bank boxes were shipped down to my parents along with my mum's dresser and nigh table, Harley's Familiar chair, and three or four picture frames of my family. Of the boxes four and a half were packed with books, one with knickknack mementos from my life past, one with sentimental clothing, and half a box filled with glasses and mugs that I had collected. That left the remainder of my clothing (roughly six 40 gallon Rubbermaid tubs full plus 20 or so pairs of shoes), 120 or so books, current knickknacks from the past 4 years of my life (about one 40 gallon tub), and random household items - trimmer, alarm clock et. al to be packed into the three suitcases and backpack.

It was a strenuous task. To eliminate and give or throw away so much of my stuff because I simply couldn't take it with me was really tough to do. But it was ultimately good. By the end of the process what I was left with was the core of what I could not force myself to part ways with. Some of the clothing I decided to keep was out of necessity; some shirts, hoodies, pants and unmentionables because I need to wear something; button downs, slacks, and nice shoes because at some point I was going to need money (read: get a job). The knickknacks and "household" items were the absolute "must haves" that I widdled down from a seemingly unending collection.

With boxes and furniture packaged up and mailed off, and clothing and necessities packed into luggage I was ready for my move. To New York i was bringing only that which I had deemed things I could not live without, in essence I was bringing all the possessions that meant the world to me. When I first arrived in the city I was forced to stay at the apartment of the parents of one of my roommates since our apartment was not yet finished. What was supposed to be only a few day delay turned into a two week one, and since I had no real place to store my things I simply lived out of my suitcases for the 14 days.

Instead of using and wearing all or a lot of what I had brought I instead resorted to wearing the minimum amount of different clothes to both reduce laundry and keep my things in some sort of order. Most of the clothing that I needed was boxer briefs, socks, and tee shirts since I was wearing the same jeans and hoodie each day of those first 14. All of that clothing was contained in the green suitcases that I had brought. They contained the bulk of my everyday clothing with the addition of the sauces I had brought with me and a few assorted books. The black suitcase I had also lugged with me to New York stayed unopened as the clothing it contained was all button downs, slacks, and nice shoes - things I didn't need in those first two weeks. Unlike the two green suitcases, the black one had also been crammed with my personal knickknacks and mementos, most of my books (including the one my Aunty Paula had given me), as well as the few household items I had decided to bring (my trimmer, shampoo, multi-tool, etc...). It was in my best interest to just leave it packed as it was and simply move it in that condition. knickknacks

Time passed and finally the moving day was upon us. We loaded up the truck early in the morning with my things and the things of my roommate (the one which I was staying with) before heading over to pick up the possessions of my second roommate and ultimately ending up at our new apartment. The move took all day, and by a little after five we had dropped off the truck and could finally say that we had finished moving. But upon returning to our new home it was evident that our move was still in full effect. Our apartment was littered with boxes, furniture, luggage, and bags. We discovered that instead of being at the finish line we were simply on the precipice of starting and completing the final step of moving: unpacking and putting stuff away.

As the sun died into the horizon we began moving things into our own rooms and sorting through our stuff. After unloading my two green suitcases I started fumbling through the clutter in our living room looking for my third suitcase. It was nowhere to be found. Frantically I began to tear through the things that we had accumulated in the apartment. Eventually - and I suppose inevitably - I began to retrace my steps and search again through the things I had looked through and around already. The contents of my empty closet were examined and re-examined, the kitchen was looked over again, the living room was continuously rifled through, and the additional bedrooms were oddly and often searched.

I had lost the black suitcase, or perhaps more accurately at some point in our move it had been stolen from me. A third of my possessions - of ALL of my possessions - had been taken from me. I didn't feel a feeling of violation as it happened seamlessly and presumably on the street somewhere. Nor did I feel a sense of financial woe even though I lost the 200 some dollars stashed away in the suitcase and was faced with the task of replacing my household items as well as the dress clothes and shoes that I no longer owned. The sadness I felt was derived from the loss of my (for lack of a better term) personal effects. The little trinkets and things that hold no real value to anyone in the world except me, the ones that would surely end up in a trash somewhere, the ones that held memories, those were the things whose loss devastated me. It was like my own memories were stolen along with the financially worthless gidgets.

I tried to identify why that feeling of loss was so strong, and why it was so closely linked to the little widgets that I no longer possessed. When it came down to it I realized that those meaningless little items (or at least meaningless to someone else) reminded me of memories and feelings and emotions that I have had. Many of those things were associated with recalling memories that I may not recall on my own without them; they were the kinds of things that you look at and it brings you back immediately to the time, place, person, thought, emotion, feeling, mood, or atmosphere that they are associated with; they were the type of things that sit on a shelf or in a box somewhere, and when they are examined and rediscovered they fulfill their purpose of jogging a memory to our conscious forefront.

If you're robbed on the street you lose some valuable stuff and maybe a few trinkets that you happen to be carrying with you. If your home gets burglarized you lose your tv, jewelry, and maybe some nice China. But to have a suitcase stolen, and for me to have THAT black suitcase stolen, was tough. It contained things that are only valuable to me - like my $2 kurta that is misfitting on anyone or my $1 goat's milk shampoo from Paris - and they will ultimately be tossed in the trash. Imagine someone breaking into your home and stealing the drawings your children made or the birthday cards your mother sent you. That's the kinds of things that I had stolen from me.

I guess I just felt like I would lose memories that I didn't even know I possessed. But in the end what I lost was just stuff. Money can be made again, clothing and shoes purchased again, and knickknacks and mementos once again collected. True, I may have lost some memories; there may be some things that I never again think of because I don't have the little trinkets to remind me. But what is that fear really? It is that I fear not being able to create or replace the memories I "lost". It's what all sentimental stuff is - at least to me. Keeping it (sentimental reminders) is what I have done for as long as I can remember because of a subconscious fear that the experiences that I've had, the really passionate and wonderful and terrible and emotional ones, won't be matched; that never again will I have new experiences to rival the ones I've already had. But if not then what's the point of going forward? If I truly believe that the rest of my life will be filled with things that cannot rival my past then I am not growing as a man. And if you're not growing you're dying.

  The point is that it's only stuff that I loss. It's not to say it doesn't suck to lose the things or the money, but in the end I lost things that aren't all that important. What is important is what I do have. The things that have been given to me (see above). The things that I can explore and discover and enjoy from here on out. In a backwards way it was good that I lost a third of my nearest and dearest possessions because it made me realize and appreciate what I DO have. Like when my family discovered I had lied about my schooling (and I discovered just how unconditional their love was) the loss of my black suitcase and it's contents made me realize how much I have.

When my grandfather, my father's father, was three his mother died. When he was seven, he and his sister were taken away from his father and they were placed in an orphanage. Not much is known about my grandfather's childhood and upbringing, but from what I imagine it couldn't have been too good of a life living in an orphanage in the sticks of New Brunswick at the turn of the twentieth century. Recently my old man showed me a picture of my grandfather and his grade school class. When my father asked me if I could pick out which one of the children was his father I couldn't. After all, the last time I had seen my grandfather he was 86 and I was 7.

With an appreciative grin my father pointed him out. "He's the only one without shoes on."

As a child my grandfather didn't own a pair of shoes.

Shouldn't I be thankful for the one pair I now own instead of sad for the pairs I've lost?

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