There are five stuffed pink garbage bags at our front door, waiting for me to take them to Lifeline. Another three have been thrown in the wheelie bin, full of dried out pens and single shoes and clutter that builds up in cupboards – and in lives. We’re moving house in six weeks, something I’m welcoming and dreading in equal parts, and I’ve gone with the get-in-early attitude when preparing for it. I’m seeing our move as an opportunity to embark on a huge cleanse, and even though no one on God’s sweet green earth likes carrying couches and fridges and boxes full of crockery on and off trailers and up and down stairs, there is something so good about change, fresh spaces and new experiences.
And so it was that I planted myself in Ella’s room yesterday while Billy took a nap, because if there was anything I needed to tackle, it was The Cupboard. Boxes and boxes and drawers and drawers full of paintings, birthday cards, unplaced photos, first haircut locks bound with lace, baby shower keepsakes, Mother’s Day crafts, notes I’d written my babies, bound into scrapbooked pages. Photos with Santa and my children’s birthday invitations and scraps of paper where Ella had written her name for the first time. On and on it went – everything that ever meant anything got thrown into this cupboard and I cherished it like a chest of gold. I swear to God, if our house ever caught on fire, I would have forced Joel to cart the entire cupboard down our stairs while I scooped up our babies to run. Our lives were buried in its drawers, memories only triggered because something we held in our hands told a story of a time that was over.
I sat on the edge of my daughter’s bed and read card after card from four years ago – cards which everyone who loved us wrote to congratulate us on her birth, wishing us all a long, beautiful, happy life together. And just like that, it crept in – the feeling of how it used to be. Just for a fleeting second. And then it was gone.
I grabbed a garbage bag and I tossed the cards in. I tossed in a whole lot of paintings and drawings and crafts. I filed keepsakes into books, sorted out must-have memories from everything-that-ever-happened memories. What once took up the entire cupboard now occupied a quarter of it and I said goodbye to the things I threw out like you would an old boyfriend: With nostalgia and the kind of sadness that comes from letting something go. But with the knowledge that it’s right to. That our lives are not just our past. That there is freedom and joy in bare spaces and drawers to fill.
Because now is pretty good too.
I miss that baby. I do. I don’t remember her and I know that’s why I hold onto any evidence of her like it means something. But throwing out her cards and her paintings and the tiny hats she used to wear does not mean I’m throwing out her. And holding onto them, as it turns out, only made me feel sad.
This house of ours, we brought Billy home from the hospital to it. We’ve cooked and cried and danced and grown within its walls, and I will always be a person who places sentimental value on these kinds of things. But my life and all the good within in rests inside my people, not where or what we have. Even if a fire burnt all the baby keepsakes. Even if our home is different. Even if the photos are all gone.
Our pasts matter.
But right now with them is the best.