Have you ever wondered what you would take with you if you had to evacuate your home?
In 2008 (before we lived here) the mountain behind our house caught fire and burned incredibly close to what is now our home:
We live at the base of that hill, behind the trees. And while the current fire in Missoula is nowhere near us, knowing that one could come within feet of your place makes me realize that there’s always a chance we could be packing our bags and fleeing for safety. As are thousands and thousands of people on the east coast who have been evacuated in the past few days. My alma mater, William and Mary, enacted a mandatory evacuation before the first week of classes was even up.
The other day, John and I were talking about what we would take if we had to pack and run, and the answer I think surprised both of us.
“Well, I guess the wedding album. We should take that.”
“We could always buy another one too though; the photographer would probably still have the files.”
Logically, of course we would pack certain things: passports, computers, medicine, changes of underwear, cell phones, flashlights and bottles of water. But everything else we could pretty much do without.
And this isn’t because we’re huge minimalists. We’re not. I’m hugely sentimental and getting John is convinced anything might be useful one day. Getting him to throw away a piece of paper is like asking him to donate a kidney. But even for us, we can’t come up with one thing that we would be really truly devastated if we lost it.
The Non Consumer Advocate wrote a post on this the other day, how stuff is just stuff. And it is. Things are things, disposable and replaceable.
On the other hand, I know that a couple days after said imagined disaster, I would start to miss the earrings John gave me our first Christmas together, the teddy bear that I grew up with, the letter my dad wrote me when I graduated college, the first scarf I ever knit. I could buy a new mixer (well theoretically. We don’t have renter’s insurance so it would probably be a few years before we replaced the big ticket items) but it’s hard to replace things that have meaning.
My grandparent’s house burnt down to the ground about 8 years ago. They lost everything. The toys we had played with as children, old photos, cherished family antiques, souvenirs from their world travels. Everything (except for their marriage license, miraculously) was lost. And it was hard. For the first few days you think “stuff is just stuff, I’m glad we have each other.” A few hours later though, you are wishing you had grabbed your eyeglasses before you ran out of the house and are devastated you don’t have the outfit you brought your children home from the hospital in.
We can be proactive about this. Not give objects meaning. Cherish our memories and keep them separate from the physical items which played a role in those memories. But to do so takes a stronger person than I.
When I moved across the country, everything I owned fit into two suitcases and two boxes. Now, my goods have expanded considerably. Almost all the storage space in our 512 sq ft apartment is being well utilized. And sometimes I look around and think “why do we have all this junk? What do we need it for?”
Besides the aforementioned essentials (laptop/medicine/passports/cell phones, which yeah, even those we could replace) we don’t need anything. But we want a lot. And not all that desire is greed or selfishness. I will always love those earrings John gave me, not because of how much they are worth or how good they look with a black dress, but because he bought them because he thought I would like them. Because I’m pretty sure he spent at least a week’s worth of JV salary on them, a huge sacrifice. Because he gave them to me in that tiny, wood paneled bedroom of his on a cold winter night in Spokane and said “Merry Christmas.”
No, I don’t need those earrings. I don’t need them to know John loves me or to even remember those first months we were dating. On one level, they are just stuff.
But the stuff we have, that I love. The stuff I would miss if one day it would disappear. That stuff I love because it reminds me that I am loved.
We need nothing but Love.