There is this hair comb somewhere in a landfill. It’s pastel pink at looks pretty much like a comb. Some of the teeth might be a little bent from working knots out of Barbie’s hair. It moved from South Africa with me and I didn’t really realize I treasured it until one day in sixth grade, when I stuck it in my lunch bag for recess, then threw my lunch bag away.
I didn’t notice I’d lost it until later that day. I was jarred by the sudden loss, terrified that I would forget things that were already beginning to fade from memory along with my first language, which I was now struggling to speak.
Somewhere, possibly in Spain, there is a teddy bear with a little gap in the stitching of his black nose where the tan fur sticks through. His eyeballs are scratched up. At nineteen, I gave him to a boy who lived far away for when we saw each other again — a promise — and we did not. I went to college, he married someone, and shortly after his wife gave birth, he died.
I remember both the sadness of riding home without my comb in sixth grade, and being tiny in South Africa with a best friend who was a bear. I still remember the birds of paradise in our garden and how perplexed my preschooler brain, new to English, was by the lyrics of “There’s a Hole in My Bucket.” I don’t need any object to remind me.
But some nights, when I forget all about the ground under my feet, tears roll down my cheeks because I am missing a bear.
Maybe because I feel like I learned to be young too late and then immediately began to grow old, or maybe because I am simply tired of loss, it’s become harder and harder to let go.
I bought this one dress when I was going to be skinny forever, but I was only skinny for like one summer. The dress still hangs in my closet and I occasionally try it on, decide it looks terrible, and return it to the closet for another few months of hanging. And it’s really not just one dress, it’s half my wardrobe. There are piles and piles of photographs in the spare room — doubles even. There’s a physical copy of every article I’ve ever published. There are magazine clippings and supplies for crafts I never finished. There’s the wood block carving of “Erika” that my high school boyfriend made for me in wood shop.
Being in a house full of these things that have no place or purpose feels like having a bunch of people talk to me all at once. They all demand to be kept in mind — and my mind brims with memories, hurts, unfulfilled intentions, projects pending for years, all stuck in boxes to be dealt with later, but later never happens. I raid the boxes on occasion in search of a lost item, sprawling the things unceremoniously on the guest room floor. Their chatter can be heard through the crack under the door from the farthest corner of the apartment.
Some things, I keep because somebody I love gave them to me. A weird golden lion from my grandmother in Alaska. A sweater. A really awful book. Like maybe getting rid of them would disappoint the giver or make their memory fade further.
Other things, I keep because I am afraid to miss them like I do my bear, even though they have never been my best friend like he was.
Authors bio: Patricia from Stephaniereinhardt.com. Bornand raised in the Saginaw Bay Region of Michigan, I have always been the generally curious sort (sometimes too curious – sorry Mom and Dad!). When applying for jobs in high school, I begged my parents not to make me turn in any more applications until I’d heard back from the public library about a page position. Fortunately they called me back, and it set me upon the path toward librarianship…