When I was hospitalized as a result of the psychosis, the business of packing up our house and belongings was being carried out by the owners of the house, who were friends of ours. Andrew had to then drive back across state to load the U-haul of all of our boxed belongings alone. He loaded all of our material possessions into the truck. Our life was boxed up and loaded in a period of four days. I was out of the hospital by this time and recovering. The U-haul pulled in to the driveway of our family’s home. We stayed one last night there and the next day, we all drove to the house Andrew, Charlotte, Georgia and I would try to make our home.
At this time, my brain was still recovering from the trauma. I was a bit confused about everything and still didn’t have full memory of what had happened. I was trying desperately to make everything exciting and happy for my girls. I was putting forth the attitude of “This house is so wonderful!l and “Home is wherever we are together!” all the while, I was putting the house together. Trying to figure out how in the world I was going to fit the much too large furniture in to our new, much smaller house. Some we needed to get rid of or trade out. My dining room table, which I loved and had recently purchased was the first thing that needed to go. It’s not as if hosting nice dinners was in my near future anyway, which is what I told myself when I needed to let it go. Of course, we didn’t move our piano from Walla Walla. I missed my piano so much, as did my girls. I did everything in my power to arrange the smaller space so that we could get a new piano. I was successful in that endeavor. There’s always a free piano lying around somewhere as nobody ever wants to move such a big and heavy piece of furniture. It felt more like home once the new to us piano arrived. I continued to unpack our lives. As I worked on putting things away and in place, I noticed many things were missing. It started with the girls’ clothes. My daughters love to dress matching and I noticed many of their matching outfits had, instead of two in their respective sizes, now just one. I found it odd but thought the missing article would show up. Remember, I was still slightly confused and had memory issues as a result of the trauma to my brain. As I unpacked, I continued to recover and was becoming more aware of the number of things missing. Clothes that were family heirlooms, handed down generations and meant to be saved were not here. Precious art that I had packed away intentionally for saving, including the girls’ annual self portraits were gone. This was particularly difficult for me. The self portraits they did that year were spectacular and we did them in our homeschool very shortly before the psychosis set in. I had planned on framing them. That period of time represents some of my happiest memories. The detail and meaning behind their portrait art means a great deal. We spent lots of time talking about them and why they as individuals were special. I’m so grateful that I took pictures of the portraits. I’ll print them some day. A print will be better than nothing and I’ll still be able to frame them.
Georgia’s favorite books that I had specifically packed in their own box were unpacked and that same box was filled with different items. Those books never turned up. A hand made, copper wire candle holder – a birthday gift from my dearest friend – gone. My friend had the same one. I admired it and it was her gift to me the year before. 8 red, black-out curtain panels meant to accompany the custom curtains made for the girls’ room, nowhere to be found. Even my favorite chair; the only thing I still carried with me from childhood. I had the chair since I was 14 years old. It was given to me as a gift from my sweet, elderly neighbor. It was a director’s chair. It was given to me because he knew I loved it and it was a nod to my involvement in the performing arts. It was a collectible, built of a solid chrome frame and black leather. I will miss that chair for the rest of my days.
These things, just stuff. Material. We were all together and safe so the “stuff” was immaterial. This is what I tried to tell myself.
In the space of 3 months time, I had lost my mobility, my job, my home, my future plans, even some friends. I had lost control of my life. Nothing that had happened was in my control. The material “stuff” was something that should have been easy to control. Some of it was so basic and it was just material….so it should be here and I should have known what to expect in terms of what would be here, so that I could organize my life accordingly – with my material possessions. Right?
WRONG. I cannot express to you how emotional that fact was for me. I would have periods of such anger and sadness over the “stuff”. It seemed easier, perhaps to grieve those things than to consider all of the other more important things I’d lost. While some of the things gone certainly hold sentimental value and are perhaps irreplaceable, most of what was lost is simply material. Material that is replaceable. We are here together and wherever we are, that is where home is. This is what I repeated over and over to my daughters, but as I consider it now, I was the one who needed to hear those words.
Today, as we approach Christmas I’m thinking a lot about material. Of course, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. We are underemployed as a result and our finances aren’t able to fund anything for Christmas. I’ve been trying to get my head around how we will be able to make it special for the children. They’re still young and deserve a little magic. They could really use some magic this year more than ever. I put out a post on our local community page inquiring about any American Girl Dolls that might be lying around and if an older girl might be willing to part with them. The outpouring of love and giving has completely overwhelmed me. Many strangers responded with a list of items they’d be willing to give. A friend of mine saw the post and called me the next morning. Her family does a “Secret Santa” gifting each year for someone in need. She wanted it to be us this year. She happened to know someone who had just cleaned out her older daughter’s toys. There were several American Girl Dolls in the lot. My girls would get the doll they wanted! They will get their magic on Christmas, thanks to the generosity and love of others. I cannot adequately express my gratitude. Of course without these gifts, we would be fine. We would have done our best to make it special, after all, the dolls are just more material possessions. But these dolls will allow the magic to stay alive for my children for just a little bit longer. You see, sometimes material is not so immaterial as I’ve tried to make it seem this past year. We have emotional attachments and connections to our things. Some of the material we have represents a very specific and special time. I’m certain that these dolls this Christmas, will represent a great deal to my girls. Someday they will reflect on receiving them on Christmas morning and it will conjure up specific emotions special to their own stories. I cannot wait to see the light in their eyes as they are reminded that magic still exists in the world. My hope for you this holiday season, is that despite these challenging times, you’re able to find one small thing that helps you to believe in the magic again.