I started to unpack a box this weekend. It has been awhile since I got the nerve up to begin unpacking again. There are a few boxes left in the basement, some in the garage, a stack way off in the pole barn all abandoned at some point in moving through a dozen lifetimes and back. I have my eye on one in the basement. It was the one I left off on last time I tried to make myself at home and I had a suspicion that it held most of what I needed to complete my project.
It started with an ambition to repurpose my lovely red sewing box which has been storage for countless, nearly useless spools of ancient, dry-rotting thread. Due to Oriel’s insistence on opening it daily to randomly remove and re-arrange several spools of the unwinding twine between compartments, (and occasionally roll them around the room) the inside of the box has magically transformed into one tangled mass that resembles vomit. Ive had plans to turn it back into a sewing kit that I can actually use to store needles, thread, and the host of other notions I collected during my sewing years. My intention being, if I have easy access to my tools, perhaps I will eventually pick them up to help mend myself.
At one time, I developed the skill of creating beautiful, reproduction, renaissance clothing for my family, most of which has been stolen. I spent hundreds of hours researching costuming, history, textiles, tailoring, and numerous forms of needle craft in order to make the most convincing costume possible. It was through tailoring that I learned to practice mindfulness, and it was tedious, blissful, work. There was a time that I completely gave up hope that I would ever get to experience creating like that again, and still I have good reason to doubt. I lack the mental focus, time, and resources to replace what has been stolen. I feel a lot of sorrow if I linger on that loss very long. It hurts to unpack your belongings and not know what will be left after 4 years of having it shoveled into boxes, shuffled from one place to the next and barely unpacked before it was shoveled into another box. I probably moved a dozen times in 4 years, each time, losing more and more of what was me to people who felt they had a right to take it. I didn’t get too far into this box before I remembered why I moved it from the office to the basement where I would almost never run into it.
I thought I would bring it up stairs, but was slightly alarmed to find that I lacked the strength to lift it though I carried it down the stairs last summer. I’m not entirely surprised, actually, it is not the first time I have experienced this. I have been having numbness in my extremities a lot again recently, and I am so tired, my body just wants to rest, it hurts to move. It is all I can do to keep up with the girls. I can feel my health shifting, and the recent stress of having the universe throw ass hatback in my face is really taking its toll. I have wiggled out of these health lapses before, and I will do it again. I don’t have time to be ill. It doesn’t matter how much it hurts, there are three beautiful creatures who are dependent on me alone to take care of them and teach them how to survive and be civilized in an uncivilized world. Even though that seems like an impossible task, all things considered.
After locating a container I could carry, I began to gather items I thought would be useful to a sewing box, as well as any other items I could easily find a home for. I started pulling out the news-paper wrapped packages containing bright-colored tins full of notions gathered for my costuming projects; feather plumes, buttons, beads, and miles of trim and lace. Not particularly practical honestly, and the pile of items to be re-packed in the box was growing exponentially compared to my crate; which now contained the thread organizer which once held a rainbow of silks, now 2/3 of its spokes stand naked.
The first layer of packages removed, I reached in to dislodge a small wooden crate containing some newspaper wrapped glass items. It was at this point that I was overcome by the smell. My breath caught in my throat for a moment as the scent like a sorrowful ghost over-took me, pulling me head-long into the past. It was this sensation that has caused me to abandon the box in the first place. I recalled that just beneath the crate with the blown glass barometer and Art Nouveau vase, disguised as just another newspaper-wrapped package waiting to be re-homed, was a jar with a blue candle.
Blue flavored candles, the ones with names that contain words like “cool” and “ocean” were once my favorite, though I have not found any that match the clean essence of the variety I initially discovered. This particular blue candle is a one-off I purchased to help neutralize the dog smell in the little ranch I rented in Kalabama. Seven months pregnant, and with a little help from my family I moved our stuff in and unpacked every box. Hanging curtains, shelves and pictures, putting girl things away and returning his possessions, neatly wrapped, into boxes labeled then stacked in a pile in the dining room to wait for him to retrieve them. I created a cute and tidy little home for my daughters from the remnants of my former life. That was the last time all my possessions were actually unpacked so they could be used, somewhere along the way I lost the hope and will to live like civilized people.
It had been a cold spring and the summer wasn’t much warmer, yet I was thirsty while I worked. I drank glass after glass of water on the rocks. Actually, I just wanted the rocks; I added water to take the edge off and so they wouldn’t meld to my tongue. I would crunch through a twenty pound bag of ice in 3-4 days. My lips were icy blue and numb most of my waking hours, to the extent that I couldn’t form words properly with my frozen mouth as though I had been shot up with Novocaine. I imagine it drove the people around me nuts to hear me constantly gnawing away on that ice. Just ice. I wanted justice.
After wrecking our opportunity for self-employment and the home we were promised, he took all the money from selling off my possessions, the money we were supposed to start over with and left me stranded, sick, and pregnant. I was heart-broken, Lilly was heart-broken, I didn’t know what to do except try to start over alone, make a new life for her and my unborn child. I was empty, even though I was full of life. I would push my body until I couldn’t move anymore to make a home for my children to house our unknown and hopeless future.
At night I would turn the water on in the tub to drown the sounds of my sobs, terrified that he would never come back. Terrified that he would come back. The quiet of the woods intensified the echo chamber of the tub, the silence punctuated by the sorrowful call of a loon, searching for its lost mate. Drifting in the water in the flickering candle light, searching the universe for an answer as to how to recover from the loss and missing him with every cell in my being. Because of all the signs, I could not accept that he would not be a part of my life. The placid water would occasionally erupt in a tremor of ripples. The baby shifting in my womb, making waves in the world she cannot yet touch. Sweet baby, how will I ever protect you? If your daddy does come back for us, there is still no guarantee that he will care whose heart he breaks.
That was an eternity ago. That baby is 3. Over the last few months, in a voice that is too wise, too sad, too resigned to endure she tells me that her dad is dead, but can’t look me in the eye when she says it. I nod my head in understanding, tell her I am sorry, and hug her. I don’t want to argue with her, it’s been a year since she saw him and it’s easier for her to justify his abandonmant that way rather than the reality that he cares more about chasing trashy women than taking care of her. Either way: He is not coming back. Macey loved her daddy, she would light up whenever he came in the room, so would Oriel, but she doesn’t even know who he is now. Someday they will be old enough to understand his failure to be a father is due to his unwillingness to address his mental illness, and they are flawless and brilliant.
I packed that box a couple of months after she was born, when it went into storage as we moved to KC. It has been shuffled through several apartments and back to the pole barn, while I shuffled through several more apartments, until last summer found it in the office which I decided to clean out by emptying one box a day until it was done. I saved that box for last because it was the biggest, and we had history. In other houses, in other cities, I ran into that smell and it made me stop cold, shattering the ice-crystal remains of my heart and keeping me from moving forward. Time has healed some wounds. We later went through much, much, worse than we did in that little house where I would burn that candle. I think it has been such a strong trigger because I harbor a lot of shame that I was just so stupidly in love with this idiot that could not recognize the good that was in front of him. I did not understand how ill he was and I took it all very personal. Also, in retrospect I recognize the treachery he was constantly concealing from me, which is even more humiliating because, like a fool, I was completely invested in us, but he could not care less. Our life would have been so much better if he had not come back.
I was ready to abandon my project and go back to bed, but instead, I dug out that candle and I put it in the crate next to my spools of thread. I add a package of needles that was in my Grandmother’s sewing box when I was a child, and a compartmentalized box filled with cotton embroidery floss, as I try to convince myself that my silk floss is in a different box that will show up if I just keep unpacking. I keep running across stuff with my son’s name emblazoned across them: MACKIE. He took sewing class in high school after developing an interest due to our costuming endeavors, he didn’t get to finish that class because ass hat ran him out of our house. More sorrow, I miss him so much. I continued digging through that box until I got to the wooden toolbox I hoped still lay hidden at the bottom where I secretly stashed my fancy set of sewing implements so many years ago. My crate now full, I quickly replace the tins, not so neatly wrapped this time, into the box. It is half as full as it was when I started, and next time, I will find a more appropriate way to store what is left. For now, my focus is that sewing box and making it my bitch.
Which I did.
I also called my son and we talked for two hours about life, and love, penguins, and turncoats. We made each other laugh, a lot. He said he never feels jealous when someone has something that he doesn’t because he knows that might just be their “one thing” that they have. God bless his pure and beautiful heart.
I even set the candle out and lit it. The shreds of my soul writhe and howl when I get a whiff, and my head threatens to run, but instead I breathe deeply and slowly settle myself into submission. The panic is replaced with a slow, aching, recognition and acceptance that I can’t bring back what’s gone. I don’t need what someone else has. I do not want what is not mine. I will burn the candle until I burn through every memory he didn’t let me process until it burns out and doesn’t hurt anymore. Eventually, I will be desensitized to another trigger keeping me bound to his madness. Eventually, all the boxes will be unpacked, and my house and mind will again have order and peace.