Things that didn’t come in my shipment

The days surrounding September 11th are tough for me. I’m aware that in no way does this make me unique. I spent three days this week in my classes talking to my students about the 9/11 attacks, the events of the 50 years prior that led up to that beautiful and terrible fall day, and some personal stories about what’s happened since. It’s a sticky week because, like everyone else who felt like their lives had been hijacked twelve years ago, I can go right back to all those feelings given just the right provocation. Grief is a pernicious creature; it wants to connect one awful episode of loss with the others we’ve endured. So, for me, 9/11 quickly ushers in sharp emotional barbs from the loss of my friend Erik, who was killed in the mountains of Afghanistan in 2005. That’s an easy connection, one that I was expecting to feel again, and other, non-war related losses come up as well. None of this is new to me.

I anticipated these rough days last weekend when I unpacked the remaining boxes (save one) of the 35 that I shipped from the other side of the world. Out of the wrapping and cardboard came clothes, books, and photographs, mostly. A few small knickknacks and keepsakes. Very few in fact. There was bicycle I wrote about. A bag of frisbees. The Buddha head I sculpted a few years ago. I purged a lot to prepare for this trip, so there wasn’t that much to unpack. It wasn’t until yesterday that I was acutely aware of the things that didn’t come in my shipment.

There’s a lot I didn’t pack — couldn’t bring with me — which I miss. My dog, Kali, for example, who I only adopted last October and became an important part of the last year I spent in Baltimore. Seeing all the street dogs here makes me think of her often. My mom’s roasted lamb and all the trimmings is missing, as is the perfectly comfortable bedroom setup I had in my place in Baltimore. My bed here is harder than a rock, but it wasn’t just the furniture that made my old room so comfortable– there was a way the light shone perfectly through the windows in the afternoon that made the room feel like warm nectar. I miss Baltimore Bike Party, which is more fun than I could ever describe. A few of the things I miss go back a few years — I still miss my Man Couch which I sold a several years ago and have regretted ever since, although it’s unlikely it would have made the trip. These are really about moments of comfort and joy which aren’t here physically but will always be with me.

What I miss most is being known, especially when feeling vulnerable and raw, like I have this week. I spent the first six months of 2013 savoring the time I had with the people I’d built into my life. These relationships are far more valuable to me than anything I could have boxed up. As those who were around me the last couple of days in Baltimore can attest, the final push to pack up my belongings was hectic, but it was the things I couldn’t take with me that was the most difficult part of leaving. And while it’s exciting to meet new people and make new friends, I really wish the last box left to unpack contained that familiarity of fellowship that makes me feel grounded, known and at home. Especially this week.

That last box in the corner of my new bedroom contains clothes, some hangers, a couple of oversized books, and, there, at the bottom of the box is a little bit of loneliness. I may never finish unpacking that box.

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3 responses to “Things that didn’t come in my shipment”

  1. nicholhart says :

    poignant and spot on. thank you for sharing!

  2. susie says :

    Honest and touching. We miss you Andrew! Keep the blog posts coming. We read every one and love hearing about your adventures in India.

  3. Mike Healy says :

    Andrew, in a recent email your dad gave a link to your WordPress page, and I’ve spent the last hour or so catching up. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. You’re a nice writer–open, specific, witty. When, as a teacher, a student’s essay was particularly insightful or revealing, I’d write a note at the end: Save this and read it in ten years. Here’s hoping your digital memories will be available for you to mull over in years to come.

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