Monday, October 29, 2007

The stuff of childhood

Finally, all of my parents' boxes have arrived. They are stacked neatly in their basement, smaller boxes on top of taller ones, with cryptic signage on the outside, like L/R for living room and "mixed" for well... Mixed stuff.

There are also a bunch of boxes that belong to me. Or rather, they belong to the me that used to live in an apartment in Budapest more than a decade ago. As my parents opened the boxes and my stuff surfaced, they handed things to me as if I should know what to do with it all.

I am grateful, that they brought all my childhood belongings, because let's admit it, the stuff needs to be dealt with at some point in life.

But I am still trying to digest the fact that my parents are here and what that all means in my life, so Barbie dolls and diaries and letters and grandma's evening purse that I used play dress-up with are a bit too much.

I think my parents feel the same way about their kitchen utensils and towels and bedding and picture frames: this stuff doesn't belong in a new life, but yet here they are, taking up space, asking to be dealt with. Things that had a place and purpose in their lives just a few short weeks ago, are now out of place, too clumsy and big for cabinets, not to mention for their non-existing furniture. Nothing has a place - or not enough space - and things that once seemed absolutely necessary for normalcy, for a real life, now seem like a waste of space.

I feel their pain. But as much as I want to help them, I can't. This is their and their stuff's journey. I realize that I was lucky: I had to rearrange the stuff of my life when I was 18, when it all still fit into two suitcases, when it was still easy to leave the stuff behind. Nothing seems important or sentimental when you are 18.

So I am not sure why, but I am certain that despite the depressing sight of all that cardboard in the basement, everything will find its place. Maybe this is just youthful optimism, but stuff just has a way of doing that - flowing in an out of boxes, finding meaning that wasn't there before, and finding hidden nooks and crannies and hidden closet space as time goes on. It just does.

Until then, I think I will help my parents by removing my things from their apartment and making space in my life for my childhood stuff again. For all these years, I've had the luxury if knowing that they were safely tucked away with my parents, so it's time to take them back and take responsibility for them.

I am not sure yet, where my things will all fit, but I am certain that they will.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I like to stand at the foot of the bed and throw myself on the bouncy mattress. My hair splashes around my face like water and I pretend that I am a weightless, powerless body, made out of straw. I turn my palms toward the sky and play dead.

That's what I was doing as he packed his suitcase. The big bed in the hotel room was wide and flexible, so I bounced for a long time. He neatly folded his clothes and placed them in his bag with care. He tucked his Christmas gift under a sweater and even folded my clothes that I left on the floor the night before.

He finally sat down next to me. I knew he wanted me to leave, but I was clinging to every minute with him. He said he'd rather see me leave, than watch me wave as he got on the airport shuttle bus by himself.

He didn't know what to say. He lay next to me and put his head on my shoulder. I touched his hair - so painfully soft- and cried.

"Please tell me that it's going to be all right," I sobbed.
"I can't promise you that; I can't promise you anything," he almost laughed.
"No, not just us - in general."
"Yeah, in general, everything will be all right."

That was the last time I saw him.