Unpacking treasures (77)

Moving in and out of a home is hard work, but in the past I’ve generally enjoyed the moving in part of the cycle. It’s a time to rediscover what’s been packed away in boxes and arrange everything in a new home. I’ve moved often in my life, including one transatlantic move and one across the country, so I have a lot of experience, too much really, with moving a household. This time is different. I’m not moving into a new house though much of the house is new after the rebuild. I also plan to move out as soon as I can get a good price for the house, so I don’t intend to unpack everything. The challenge is deciding what I need or want to have accessible for the next few months and what should I leave packed up in the garage. And so I begin to unpack, box by box, to discover what survived the fire.

A friend recently asked if super tidy and organized people miss out on not discovering treasures on a regular basis. I never thought of it that way, but Joleen has a point. I’m one of those organized people and generally like knowing where everything is, no surprises necessary to keep me content. Yet that is exactly what I’m experiencing now as I open boxes to discover what survived. It’s quite fun, especially when I expected the object to be long gone. It’s often the little things I cherish finding, for example, a mini-cutting board with the map of Cologne printed on one side. Whenever I have used it, I recall good times in that city with my good friend Janet. It’s not just a kitchen tool; it’s a memory. I cautiously unpacked the boxes holding my teacup collection. I had already lost at least 8 teapots that I knew of, but I was hopeful that the teacups had survived since most of them had not been in the kitchen at the time of the fire. Each cup, saucer, and dessert dish I unpacked was like a victory. Only one set had been destroyed, most likely the one I had last used and left on the kitchen counter. Many of the teacups had been gifts over the last couple of decades, so not only are they beautiful to look at, they also represent the people who gave them and the times of celebration.

Perhaps my greatest surprise came when I found my hatbox. It doesn’t contain hats, though, but instead holds the many letters, cards, and notes I’ve received over the years. The restoration company did a good job of ‘ozoning’ the contents and there was no smoky burn smell at all. I think I cherish these mementos even more now because I so rarely get personal letters in the mail. E-cards are so easy and convenient, and I’ve certainly sent my share. But there’s something special about picking up a holiday card or travel postcard, looking at all its colors, feeling its texture and most of all, recognizing the familiar handwriting of a friend or relative. I once commented to my daughter that she and her brother would probably not recognize my handwriting in this day of e-mails and texting. She denied this, saying they both saw my handwriting often enough on the ‘to-do’ lists I’d leave for them. Oh great, I thought, my handwriting will leave them with gloomy thoughts of chores! I need to correct that association and vow to send more cards and handwritten notes. In the meantime, I look through the many cards in the hatbox, happy to have found that treasure of memories.

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