WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND

First, I discard childish things,

Paperdolls and games I’ve played,

Monopoly and Sorry, Chutes and Ladders,

Candyland, jump ropes and jacks,

Pickup sticks and a deck of Old Maid Cards,

My mother packs them in a box to donate to Goodwill,

but somehow never makes the call and the box

gathers dust in my parents basement.

Then I outgrow socks and shoes,

skirts and dresses that can’t be lengthened anymore;

These are given to a  younger neighbor child

who loves the plaid rayon dress as much as I.

Jackets and coats and cardigans fill a hall closet

Until there is a clothing drive at our church;

We fill the wagon with discarded clothing

that will keep some poor family warm this winter.

I often wonder what happened to my high school uniforms–

Who did my mother give those to?

When I am fifteen, we move to a new home

and leave behind the old life on Sutter Street;

I am bereft without my friends and go to see them often,

by bus or when I am staying with my grandmother;

I never adapt completely to the new home on Mulberry Street,

leaving home to get married at eighteen, I don’t feel I am

leaving anything behind, except my three younger brothers,

one of whom is a baby I have spent a great deal of time with

since his birth.

When my husband and I move to California in 1961, we left

behind furniture and most of our belongings; all we took

was clothing and what would fit into a car, and the baby bed

tied to the roof of Jim’s old Pontiac.

When we decided to return to Ohio in 1963, I gave away

all the things we had accumulated in a short period of time.

When we decided to return to California, still in 1963, this

time we sold the furniture and virtually all of our things,

except my books, which my mother kept for me and shipped

one box at a time over a period of several years.

By this time I have become adept at leaving things behind;

We will move nine more times over the course of 26 years,

including a move  to Florida in 1979 and back to California in 1982,

each time leaving much behind, paring down, discarding.

However, I have always taken the memories along with me. Upon returning

to California in 1982, I swore I wouldn’t leave California again.

 

Sandra Lee Smith

October 16, 2009

Updated July 12, 2018

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