Special Things

SPECIAL
We are a culture of things. We are driven, propelled, and compelled by our desire for things. We want new things, fancy things, shiny things, valuable things, the latest and greatest things money can buy. We acquire, collect, stock, store, and even hoard things. But there comes a time of reckoning, an occasion when we must account for all of our things. Often this reckoning comes in the form of moving.
Moving is ranked among the top 5 most stressful life events. Alongside death, divorce, major injury or illness, and losing a job, moving is one of life’s most intrinsically distressing experiences. And that is exactly what I’ve been doing for the past couple of weeks.
The home I’m moving out of has been owned and occupied by members from both sides of my family for three long generations. Perpetually inhabited by musicians, my house sings the songs of a cacophony of memories, both sweet and bitter, enlightening and burdening, remembered and forgotten. The majority of its music, though, is melancholy. Or perhaps, at some point, the sad songs began playing more loudly than the happy songs, and the house became a symphony of sorrow. I abandoned it a few weeks ago, when suddenly the music became too painful to hear any longer. I snuck back in every few days to grab clothes, and drop off boxes and packing supplies, just to give myself the feeling of actually making progress. Yesterday, though, I had to “face the music”. My mom and I set off, stalling for an hour or more at Starbucks before finally pulling into the driveway, opening the garage, and taking a big deep breath. We started sifting through our memories as if we were combing the rubble after some sort of natural disaster…and, in essence, we were.
There were so many things.
There were yearbooks and letters and faded photographs. There were keys to unknown doors, duplicates and triplicates of junk we can’t stop buying, and Halloween decorations we’d been missing for years. There were books and trinkets and the remnants of relationships past. There were also landmines; those things that carried experiences we’d consciously forgotten had existed. The things that held those harrowing memories had haunted us, bound us, smothered and imprisoned us. However, in finding them, feeling them, and finally releasing those things and their painful memories, we began making room for future blessings we still have yet to experience.
Among the various piles for donations, throwaways, and keepers, my mom set aside a separate pile she aptly referred to as her “special things”. Her pile was dwarfed by the mountains of things we planned to finally release from our stronghold. Her little collection of treasures, however, amounted to more value and importance than any of the other piles combined. Her items included sea glass and seashells, love notes, old photos, and a cross I remember her wearing around her neck when I was young. That tiny collection of special things was a symbol of life’s most cherished prizes. Some things were valuable on their face, other things anybody else might have overlooked, but to her they were all emblems of her happiest moments.
We lugged and slammed and dragged and trashed but, at the end of the day, I watched as my mom delicately picked up her basket of special things and held it close to her heart as she whisked it away from the rubble. And just like her small, unassuming treasure trove, I began to understand that life’s most important things aren’t necessarily the big, expensive things; oftentimes the most meaningful things are the tiny vestiges of fleeting moments and memories we hold within, safe from the turmoil of the outside world. And while these little things are just things, they are also memoirs of our most extraordinary experiences, carrying boundless sentimental value.
Together, my mom and I drove away from our family home, special things safely in our laps. And in that moment, fresh from releasing our grip on all those other things, we truly had every-thing.
xoxo
hjn
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33 thoughts on “Special Things

  1. Wow, Hannah, I needed to read this. I have hung on to so many “things” through my lifetime and have refused to let them go. Now at this age (72) I think about the shortness of time, I have left in my life and think to myself, “Do I want to leave all of this garbage for my kids?” You have inspired me to go through my droves of stuff and reserve “SPECIAL” things, so they may be “treasures” for my kids. I love reading your stories. You are as inspiring as your Dad was. Thank you.

  2. Hannah – This is so beautiful, powerful and moving that I had to sit back in my chair for a moment after reading it. I am in awe of your ability to put these thoughts and emotions into words. Brava!

  3. Such a great reminder of what is important. You are a very good writer, and I can certainly feel your emotions in your writing. thanks for sharing.

  4. My mom passed away last month, and I spent a few weeks with my sister, clearing out her apartment. It was traumatic and confusing, although it was made much easier by the fact that my sister had moved her from her house of 30+ years to the apartment last summer, so much of the “stuff” was already gone. I came home with new eyes, and although I’m still feeling a bit overwhelmed by how much stuff I have, I’m finding new resolve – to trim down my masses of things to just the treasures.
    So thank you for your words, and for your perspective, and for the love and kindness that resonates in what you write.

  5. I was imagining yesterday how I was going to address the final room of thugs in boxes. We moved 7 months ago to a tinier spot and letting go was easier than I thought of many things. So just have to address the existing boxes in the next couple of weeks. It is a cleansing thing! Good for you Hannah!

      • Thank you Hannah! I am leaving my “thugs in boxes” there rather than correcting it to things in boxes because obviously I have a bad attitude about it all. Having a deadline helps because so many important life excuses can get in the way of going forward. I hope your journey is positive in the end. Your posts are so refreshing!

  6. Really thoughtful post, Hannah. I love how you are able to put into such memorable and lovely phrases the experiences that many of us have perhaps felt or experienced at some time. I find this very comforting. This must have been a difficult day for you and your mom. Thoughts and best wishes to you both as you move forward 🙂

  7. Hannah, thank you for posting such an insightful blog. Once again with your heart on your sleeve. I did much the same a few years ago when I moved back to our old home in Encinitas, a few years after my husband passed away. Still bringing much of the stuff with me, to go through later….Later is now! I know how hard it can be, with so many memories with each item you touch and see. I found it difficult for my family as well. Each dealing with their our emotions of what we had to go through. It slows down the process, but progress is being made regardless. Much Love to the whole Nancarrow family as you all go through this life changing experience. I am with you in spirit.

    Terri

  8. I am sure this was not an easy day for you
    Or for your mom. My thoughts are with
    You. Sometimes change can be refreshing!

  9. Thank you for your loving view on change and things. I am 73 and have way too much stuff, mostly books (unread). I love books and keep them even after reading them. In my will for three granddaughters to hassle over. If I ever have to move, I’ll face what you and your sweet mom just went through. Love your posts and courage to look at life and keep going. God bless you and your family.

  10. Hannah, you are an amazing young woman. We moved 6 months ago and found it heartbreaking to let go of “stuff”, but like you said we all know what’s important to keep. I shed a few tears reading this thinking of me moving and of you and your mom leaving the family home that you shared with your wonderful father. I know he is proud of you as he looks down on you and your mom. I hope it’s getting easier for your mom, and I hope she is find happiness again.

  11. Very reflective for so many of us; thank you. Your timing was perfect for my “perfect” storm currently swirling against my grain. May your path continue forward despite these painful yet rewarding moments.

  12. I can truly relate because that is what I am doing. Managed to stay in my home 8 yrs after loss of my husband of 52 years. Now time to move on and as you said, it is not easy. thanks for sharing your story.

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