I’ve been driving the same road to work for about five years. It’s a monotonous route, filled with other motorists who seem to need to get to their destination quicker than I do. Sometimes I like to mess with them and settle in beside a driver who has the unmitigated gall to drive at the speed limit and not twenty miles per hour over.
Slow down people – life’s too fast!
New communities are popping up along the road because this is metro Atlanta where we hate greenspace. There was this charming little blue house right next to the road that most likely housed the farmers who originally owned a lot of the now-developed property. It had a covered porch with scrolled lattice trim where I can picture they sat in rocking chairs after a long day in the fields. If you looked behind it, you could even catch a glimpse of the matching outhouse. Then one morning as I drove to work, I noticed that it was gone. I don’t mean it had fallen over… it was gone – like it never existed.
I don’t know anything about the house or its owners, but it made me sad. That house was someone’s home. Lives and memories were contained within its walls. Children were born and raised there, probably generations of them and now someone bought it and erased it in the name of “progress” (whatever that is).
It is gone.
I spent the Labor Day Weekend in St. Louis doing a good bit of labor. My parents have moved into a retirement villa and my sister and I had to prepare their house for sale and sort through what remained. This is a good situation where both parents were there and fully able to choose what they wanted to keep and what they wanted to sell. But it was still very strange. After all, this was their collective lives laying on tables for bargain-shoppers to buy for pennies on the dollar.
Certainly we kept those things most sentimental, but so much of the leftovers still brought back memories: books read, bowls filled, tools used, couches crashed on. Each one with its sticker denoting whether it was a $5 item or worth only 50¢. It needed to happen, but it didn’t seem right.
What is the price of a life?
Then, for a moment, you step back. And you realize that this is only stuff. Stuff. It is something and it is nothing. It is not eternal and every item here will be in a landfill someday. What matters isn’t the carved giraffe that my father got in Kenya or my mother’s dress pattern. The important things are the lives they poured into – the people he helped on his African mission trip and the eyes of her granddaughter when she opened the American Girl costume made just for her. My parents poured a great deal and when you consider that, the stuff is worthless but their lives are rich.
They handled all of it very well – probably much better than I will. Someday my kids and grandkids will be going through my stuff. It’s not the best stuff in the world, but I seem to have accumulated a lot of it. I hope and pray when my time comes I may be counted rich not because of the fineries I collected but because of what I gave away.
Just in case, I am hiding several bombs for my kids to stumble upon. On the chance that they will read this, I can’t divulge what or where they are. But they will find some very strange and awkward things that will make them cringe and doubt my sanity even more than they already do… if that is possible.