Friday, April 04, 2008


“Billions and billions and billions of stars…”

Carl Sagan’s oddly comforting voice introduced his weekly PBS show. I sat watching with my step father. Sometimes it was boring to me. I was more excited about Knight Rider coming on later that night. But I sensed that it was important to watch if it was something John valued. I sat and we traveled through the stars.

The unseasonably cold wind whips a snowflake across my cheek and I snap back to the present. John’s been dead for ten years. I’m standing in our old drive-way as my mother, sister and I pack up the house we’ve been renting out to a stranger for the last five years.

John’s old hardcover copy of “Cosmos” sits on the garage sale table and I keep staring at it. I have been pushing my mother hard all morning to let go of things. Stop hording and move on. It’s just stuff. I’m wondering if I should grab the book.

I can remember it as far back as I remember John. It sat on the top tier of the built-in book shelves by his desk. “Cosmos” was part of the set of the movie of my life as long as it took place in that house.

It sat there as John taught me how to draw and write. It was there when my sister and I made up silly games running back and forth in front of the shelves. It witnessed the arguments, the nights John slept on the couch in front of the shelves. It saw me and Ted pretend to fall asleep on the couch so we could spend the night together without admitting we actually liked each other.

“Do you remember dad always watching this show?” I ask my sister as I cradle the book in my arms. I remember how fiercely we fought over his stuff when he died. A part of me wants her to fight me for this. I want this object to matter.

She grunts vaguely and continues sorting stuff. Granted the book was on a high shelf back then and she was much shorter. It’s a big, heavy book. I put it back on the sale table as neighbors and sale-cruisers mill around.

John’s “Cosmos” doesn’t sell. The sale pile becomes the Goodwill pile - except not really for Goodwill. For the Vietnam Vets Association since John was one. We are locking up the house to leave it for the last time. The house sale closes tomorrow and we won’t come back here again. The garbage truck will take what’s left tomorrow.

Will I regret not taking this book with me? I stare at it for a long minute. Then I close the garage. I continue to think about the book with its tattered cover as I fly home, back to the sun. I wonder if I’ve made a mistake. It was John’s after all. I imagine it being chucked into the donations truck with all our other old left-behind things. Things that used to matter to one or another of us.

I get home and sit with the books of John’s that I do have. The ones I took when we divided his stuff up after his death ten years ago. I wonder why my sister and I fought over some of them as though we could hold onto him through his things. We both had to have this one or that one. And now we just give them away.

I pull off my shoes and walk past my own book shelves filled with my books and John’s. The memories are not lodged inside them.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home