I had packed a small kid-size suitcase with my pajamas and Dusie. Her real name was Susie, but it seems I had problems with the “S” as a child, so I had renamed my doll. I wore my red winter coat, black shiny summer shoes even though it was cold outside and my favorite dress, that’s all I took with me, and of course, my school backpack.
I left behind everything else when I left my parents to live with my Grandma. Six-year-old girls don’t have many treasures, yet there was one, and I did not take with me, and I missed it for a very long time.
My paper cone, “Die Schultüte” is an Austrian and German tradition. All pupils starting first grade get a large paper cone full of goodies and school items for the new chapter of their lives. While my parents had been awful behind closed doors, they always made sure we pretended to be the picture-perfect family outside. The loving couple and their beloved daughter, who went to school with a new backpack. My paper cone had matched my winter coat. It was so pretty and it had pictures of a puppy and a little girl on it. I was so proud that day, yet I left it behind.
12 years later, when my Grandma died I went through our belongings. Once again I took only what my little VW Beetle could carry. The basement had been full of canned goods and jams, I took a few. My duvet and my pillow, clothes, books, a lamp, a few personal items, and before I knew it the car was full. My grandma’s large white cupboard, the antique wingback chair, the bench my grandpa had made before I was born, all of it was stored at a neighbors barn in South Tyrol.
The old singer sewing machine, the china, the vases, the crystal, the old records, guestbooks full with funny anecdotes from guests who had spent the summers with us, all left behind. Truckloads of coal and food got donated. My grandma’s clothes, farm tools, her car, all the gifts I had made for her in boarding school, the plaques and ribbons we had won, the puzzles we had made, the books we had read. So much I could not take with me. My new apartment in Vienna was named The Shoebox by me, which probably gives an indication of the size. I couldn’t afford to drive back and forth for hours. It was a six-hour drive one-way. So I said Goodbye and I left.
I wasn’t worried, all my belongings were stored at the neighbor’s farm and later on, in a few years when I would have a bigger place, I would drive back home and get it all.
Four years passed, I met a man, fell in love, got engaged to be married. The bigger place was 4000 miles away in a city called Los Angeles in a country called America. We went to all the shipping companies, even called Hamburg and other places in Germany with a harbor, but no matter where we called, we could not afford a shipping container.
We didn’t have the money and even with loans and help from his family, it was out of reach. We would have paid loans off for years to come, and all of our start money for our life together would have been used on the transport of things from my past.
I decided against it, told the neighbor to get rid of everything. I didn’t even drive back home, just called and informed him about the changes. He held on to it for another year, just in case America And The Guy would not work out, but then eventually it all got sold or given away.
By the age of 23 I had lost all my belonging -or most of it- already three times.
Our new life started and it was (still is) an exiting one. I learned to let go of things that weigh me down, I learned to treasure what really matters. It’s not the crystal bunch bowl, but the memories I have and the love I feel when I go back on memory lane.
Perhaps, that’s why I don’t allow THINGS to become to important in my life. Perhaps that’s why clutter drives me crazy.
Yet, twenty years later, there would be a fourth time I (we) would lose everything.