My Mother's Suitcase

My mother's suitcase

My mother's suitcase

Last summer, we rented a small house across from the shadow of Buffalo Mountain, in Dillon, CO. Back then, the threat was mega renovations on our 70s era condo in Breckenridge. Utilities would periodically be shut off. And then the dust of ripping off old siding to make way for the new. Having asthma is a pain in the patoot. So we moved out for six months.

Then - the threat escalated to the possibility of wildfire during an especially dry Colorado summer. So we prepared for the worst. We stocked large jugs of drinking water, got a bank box for irreplaceable documents, and worried.

About my mother's suitcase.

My mother and me, 1951

My mother and me, 1951

She was a beautiful, charismatic lady who died of cancer when I was 11. Didn't get to know her that well, except through the stuff in the suitcase she carried with her through the many moves of my childhood. I've carried the darned thing with me through all my moves over the last 40-plus years.

Ah, you nod knowingly. That kind of stuff. Nothing worth anything to anyone else. Pictures - some of them over 100 years old. The thought of losing all of them to the flames pressed on my conscience. So I decided to have a photographer scan them onto DVDs. I got as far as my great-grandmother's color portrait, the cost too prohibitive.

Then I took them all out of crumbling scrapbooks and transferred the prints to archival-quality boxes - they're stored on the top shelf of the closet now. The suitcase now is essentially empty, except for blobs of old birthday candles, a feather headdress from the 50s, and other assorted detritus from a childhood spent on the move.

In the process of peeling the old photos from my mother's little pasted corners and sometimes just chunks of yellowing clear tape, I got to know my parents in a way that somehow had escaped me over the years. There were notations on the backs of some of the photos, asides from an era about which I was ignorant. More about those revelations in a later post.

Now I'm left with a suitcase I can't quite part with. Managed to pry it from the closet before I liberated the fading images. Now the old pasteboard relic sits in the hallway, right beside piles of skis, ski boots, and bike paraphernalia. Detritus of my own from the era I'm living today.

I know there's a better place for the poor old thing - can't think of where, though. My children struggle with their own challenges. The threat of flooding in Boulder hangs over the head of one while the other is carving out a new life at the opposite end of the state.

I'm certain the curse of the traveling suitcase has to end with me.

How I was going to end the curse was beyond me until I realized: Time is the answer. That's what we all need. Time can cure one threat, but presents us with another.

In the end, family and friends are what's important, what endures. The things we carry with us in life are just symbols of those connections, those memories.

People who have just minutes to decide what's important, choose love, of family, of friends, of their neighbors, their pets. It's simple.