When we visit estate sales, among the furniture and glassware we see arranged for sale in the rooms, there are stories that we also find in both attics and basements. An organized stack of letters between two sisters in the 1930’s, one in England, one in upstate New York, as they detail their collaboration on the language arts book they’re co-editing and impending difficulties with Europe and Germany.

Another left scrapbooks of photos and newspaper clippings about the foreign exchange students she hosted at her home in the 1960’s. Even personal stories these students wrote and their successes at the local high school.

One left behind a cardboard binder filled with religious affirmations and personal poetry written in cursive with a blue pen on wrinkled onion skin.

There are reasons these were kept and reasons they were left behind. Maybe the owners are gone and the living  have taken what they felt most precious leaving others back for final sale. Maybe there are no families left and there are no needs to keep these bits of memory any longer.

But there were reasons that they were saved at all.

Yet we find other things – old repair bills, stacks of empty bank deposit envelopes, wooden boxes of bent nails or odd bits of thread knotted together in containers odd buttons. No reasons other than the stories that can be sewn together themselves.

This weekend, cleaning out my own attic and a small bedroom that had become a storage area, I found myself surrounded by my own mystical things. Old expense account sheets, scattered notes with odd stacks of numbers, bits of articles from magazines or the daily papers, boxes of appointment books, or folders with dateless and disconnected lines of prose.

But it wasn’t a stranger going thru these. Instead it was I who sat and fanned through them, trying to imagine the reasons why I kept them so neatly banded in cardboard boxes for so many years.

But the reasons must have been so ordinary that they were no longer remembered.

Then I thought of the poem. The one that we spent class hours discussing with no firm conclusion.

Now I understand.

Maybe…

so much does

depend on

a red wheel

barrow…

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