92: The One Thing We Didn’t Have to Unpack

92: The One Thing We Didn’t Have to Unpack

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


The One Thing We Didn’t Have to Unpack

A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.

~Edward de Bono

It was two days before we had to leave our large four-bedroom house and move out of state. I loved this house and all the memories we had made in it. I thought back to raising our son and daughter there. We had brought them home from the hospital to this house. This was where they learned to walk and to talk. This was where we watched them play on the lawn as we rocked on the welcoming porch on beautiful spring and autumn days. I had picked apples from the trees in the back yard and learned to make apple pie from scratch in this house.

And now we were saying goodbye.

My husband announced that our things would not all fit in our POD. I stood in our driveway while the cicadas screeched like a car alarm. “What’s not going to fit?” I asked.

“The sage couches, the kitchen table, the coffee tables, the treadmill, the rocking chairs…”

“We have to take the porch rockers!” Thunder was starting to rumble in the distance, and the wind was picking up, only adding to my sense of urgency. “I nursed our babies in those! We sat in those and counted the fireflies every summer.”

“Honey,” my husband continued patiently, “they’re not going to fit. And even if they did, we’re not going to have a porch in California.”

We lived east of the Mississippi and all our family was out West, so we were moving out there to be with the people we so desperately missed. We needed our children to be surrounded by people who loved them unconditionally the way only grandparents can. We needed to know that someone had our back and would move heaven and earth to be there if we called. We had flown solo for five years, and although we had made dear friends, there was just no substitute for our parents, Grandma and Grandpa for our kids.

When an opportunity came for my husband to transfer west (to a town that was just a few hours from my parents and a day’s drive from his), we knew it was time. We were excited. We would be living in a house half the size of this one, but we didn’t care. We would never have to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas alone again. Our children would be able to grow up with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in the picture.

“Could we get a bigger POD?” I asked, still trying to bring everything along with us.

Jason sighed. “Amy, this is as big as they come.”

“But I love the kitchen table,” I said.

“Do you want to bring that one instead of the dining room table?”

I thought a moment. “No.”

“Honey, we can’t take both!” My husband took off his work gloves. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and locked the doors to the POD. The wind was blowing the branches of our pear trees sideways. The thunder boomed. “We have to wait until the storm passes before we can load anything else in the POD. Okay? You think about what you want to take with us.” He slipped quietly back into the house.

I stood in the garage and watched the rain run off our driveway. I felt like the sand was running out of our hourglass. We had to say goodbye to the home I loved and the furniture I loved, too.

I sat down on the bumper of my car and called my mom.


“Hi, Mom. It’s Amy.”

“Hi, honey. What’s new? How’s the packing going?”

“It’s not all going to fit,” I said, trying to keep my voice steady and not burst into tears.

“What’s not going to fit?”

“The treadmill, the kitchen table, the couches, the porch rocking chairs.” I felt hot tears spill down my cheeks. “And I know it’s just stuff, and I know stuff doesn’t matter, but it’s hard! I sat in that rocking chair and read stories to Azure when I was pregnant with Seamus. And I lost the last thirty pounds of my baby weight walking on that treadmill at night after the kids went to bed. And I’ve sat at that kitchen table every night with my family since we moved into this house…”

“Amy, honey. The stuff isn’t the memories. You don’t need the rocking chairs to remember reading books to Azure on the front porch when she was small. You don’t need your kitchen table to remember family dinners. You will always have those memories, whether the stuff comes with you to your new house or not. And you don’t have to worry about losing the memories when you leave your stuff behind. Those you take with you, and you don’t even have to worry about boxing them up. Okay?”

“Okay,” I said.

“How’s your weather?” my mom asked.

“We’re having an afternoon thunderstorm.” I looked up at the skies. The clouds had thinned and bright blue sky bent around them. “But it looks like the rain has stopped.”

“Yeah. You are going to be just fine. Moving is tough, but we are so excited that you are going to be closer.”

“We’re excited too.”

My mom was right.

We’ve been very happy in our new home, half the size of our old one. We have half as much stuff as we did before. We don’t miss it, and we have not lost the happy memories of our old home. Those came with us, and they were the only things we never had to box up or unpack.

~Amelia Hollingsworth


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