August 21, 2012

i held so many people in my suitcase heart


I’m wearing a belt of mom’s that I saved, but have never tried on. It’s an American Airlines one, thin and black, and the buckle is an oval with a silver eagle on the front, just the kind that hooks into a hole in the belt. The first time I wrap it around me, I see right away which holes are worn and stretched and which are not. Her waist fit my waist. Or really, mine fits hers.

It’s such a contradiction to me. We people leave such traces behind. The space between my hands fitting that belt, and her hands twenty years past fitting that belt, is just a heartbeat apart. A home packed, filled wall to wall and page to page with newspaper trimmings and shreds of loopy handwriting. So many objects treasured and tucked away by so many pairs of hands before us, and clutched tight to our chests for a little longer. Shoes broken in and relaxed to fit a particular pair of feet. A scarf still smelling faintly of someone’s perfume. A recipe printed in a church cookbook with penciled notes and adjustments from experiments gone awry somehow. Our markings are everywhere, whether or not we are mindful of who will read and touch and smell them when we’re gone. Sometimes it’s the things we take such care to preserve, and other times it’s the note from the doctor jotted down by the phone, just as easily thrown away as enshrined by someone else.

It’s a wave of comfort, followed closely by a wave of grief for the gift that’s left for me to hold on to, while knowing how insufficient it is to replace the person. It’s a treasure in the same moment that is also a weak reflection and a fragment.

How can a thing be so important, so so important, and a breath later, just another thing?


  1. I have loved every one of your posts in this series on inheritance and family, but this one made me cry. First I laughed because your mom would be so thrilled that her belt fits you (I think she'd have thought it would be too big--although she had a tiny waist) and then I cried in the memory of her and the AA belt. Who knew such simple things could pack such powerful meaning?

    And the other thing that I want to say is that you are an incredibly beautiful writer. REALLY. I am positively stunned by you.

    But then I remember your first day of remember the story. You wrote your mom a note ..... and now look at you. She is so proud and I am thinking who knew? We are full of potential when we are young, and our tiny self is constantly showing us who we are going to be, like little cluesin a scavenger hunt, but of course some are dead ends....and then a few blossom into such beauty it takes your breath away. Today you took mine away AB. Thank you.

  2. I like this a lot. So true.

  3. You write so beautifully.
    It touches me for a few reasons. Your sweet love of your mother. But also, because as a mom, you can feel so invisible. Constantly needed but not usually seen. Your ability to see such meaning and intention in the items your mom once held, wrote, used, is such a gift to her.