I’ve been off the grid lately, but not because of writing gridlock. It’s because of exciting news: on February 4, my daughter and I moved into a larger house, one with more than one bathroom (finally, yay!).
So instead of writing for the past couple of months, I’ve been packing with the help of my eight-year-old sidekick. Life has gotten busy for us — between school, play dates, and Ari’s other activities, and now the move consuming our attention. And, as anyone who has moved anywhere can attest, moving is a major hassle. All the back-breaking movements and maneuvering over boxes make me break out the Salonpas.
But moving is also an activity of the spirit. While sorting through the many long-forgotten items that bring up long-forgotten memories, I came across the past: the traditional Chinese dress and tiny shoes I dressed Ari in as a 13-month-old in China, as well as the pink, embroidered outfit she wore on “Gotcha Day,” when she was first put into my arms. The nametag that had been attached to Ari’s outfit on “Gotcha Day.” And I found another nametag, one I wore to a teaching conference where I received a national teaching award. A vase the Chinese government official gave me on the day I adopted Ari in China. As I continued packing, I uncovered more gems. Ari’s dance costumes. Her first pair of shoes. And the high-heel shoes I can no longer wear, but she can, so they now belong to her. And the first place medal I won at a 5K.
(Before you get too impressed, I am the slowest runner on Earth, and when I received the medal in the mail, I called the race organizers to tell them it was a mistake and that I needed to send the medal back. They said I won the race in my age group and therefore I won the medal fair and square. This leads me to believe I was the only one in my age group running in that race.)
Then there are the other mementos. My school diplomas. The tassel from my college graduation. Sketches and paintings long etched from my memory.
Then there are other items re-newly discovered: the Mickey Mouse bank my aunt gave me when I was five, a ceramic letter holder from my parents, books given to me as gifts, meaningful vases and so on. Some more random paintings. As much as I treasure these items, I decided to let them go — I gave them to a local charity. I found myself making difficult decisions about what to give up and what to keep, and I ultimately decided to give up, rather than keep, most of the items.
The impetus behind my becoming a minimalist and give away mementos was a rather simple one: while we were moving to a larger house, the home is by no means large. To avoid cluttering the place, I needed to let items go. And, through necessity, I adopted a minimalist philosophy that I’m hoping to carry from this day forth: Only keep what you need.
So on February 4, we took only what we needed to the new home and left some of the past behind. Ari and I took the most important essence of home — each other and our cat Hemi — and after an exhausting day-long move, we settled uncomfortably into the new house.
Uncomfortably because the greatest memento of all was our former house itself. After all, this was the home Ari first knew in the United States. We treasured our large memories in our small hearth. And so it was with a teary goodbye and lots of pictures that we left the only home we knew together as a family.
So today, nearly two weeks after the move, boxes gradually being emptied and Arielle adapting to yet another new school, here we are.
We rang in the New Year with a new house and the promise of new memories.
Because what separates the past from the future is not just the present.
It is us.
Have you ever found any long-forgotten precious mementos? If so, did you keep them or give them away? Feel free to share.