The flotsam and jetsam surrounds me.
A china egg from one man who loved me; a delicate heart from another.
My baby brother’s Easter basket used by my son in his childhood. A random, painted plastic egg, bearing a face drawn in my son’s unmistakable left-handed style. A birdhouse which Patrick and Chris Taggart made on the dining room table under a reluctant stepfather’s watchful eye, that awkward summer when the boys earnestly pursued Scout merit badges.
The telling mask which Patrick made of his face in first grade, what seems like centuries ago.
A red wooden box where I stored love-letters, missives consigned to the trash during the first round of cleaning. It holds only dust now.
Here, a shiny orb that another stepfather and I gave my son for that last happy Christmas before our family shattered, drawn down by its own impossible, cumbersome weight.
There, a hand-blown bowl, the square mate to which went away in that first, awful Holmes House break-up, nearly ten years ago.
Stacks of books that I cannot bear to lose but which I will probably never re-read.
My mother’s coffee urn, its lid broken and replaced by one made of wood in my father’s workshop.
The last surviving intact Alan White Coffee Mug, from a time before we created a law firm together which became his day-job. He crafted the mug during his years working in the studio of a potter who insisted that the words “thank you” be resounded at every turn and who yelled unrelentingly if one didn’t conform to his demands. I’m not sure that working with me has been a better gig.
By the end of today, all must be culled or packed. I sit in my pajamas, with a crystal cup of coffee at hand, reading e-mail and delaying this last bittersweet task. My life feels small and insignificant, a crumble of autumn leaves floating in rainwater.
Yesterday, someone who voices love for me sent an intricate missive with advice for my future. I stood in a store, waiting for help, reading the letter on my phone. I could have cried; I might have laughed; I found myself tempted to rage. Instead, I let myself believe in the righteousness of his concern. I sent two words in reply: Thank you.
Later, I would craft a further response. But in that moment, what rose from the rubble as gratitude seemed to suffice. Maybe that potter had it right all along, despite the vitriol with which he delivered his message.
It’s the twenty-ninth day of the forty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.