July 30
I'm a lawyer in my past life, who got the kids through college and decided to try something different and a little more fun. A used book store sounded like a good idea, so that's where I am for now. I just hadn't counted on a recession or E-readers and am a little afraid there's going to be a third act. In the meantime, I have plenty to read and a little time to write. Not a bad way to spend a day.


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JANUARY 28, 2013 10:13AM

The Painted Cigar Box

Rate: 13 Flag

The painted cigar box sits on a table next to my bed. A golden hand print on the front."Happy Father's Day," written inside by that same hand 53 years ago. The top loose, no longer attached.

It is filled with things my father kept. Mainly Father's Day cards from my sister and me. One from my mom. But also two poems and one story that I wrote in newly learned cursive on wide margin notebook paper. The penciled words barely legible. Two photographs of his mother.

And, on top, a small leather coin holder. The zipper broken. Pieces of yellowed and aged tape holding the sides of the cracked and faded leather together. If you look closely, you can see the imprint of little circles the size of dimes on the rough leather inside.

There is nothing to indicate why he would have kept this little purse. And there is no one to ask.

I think he may have sold newspapers on the streets of Chicago when he was a boy. And I wonder if this could have been where he kept the coins he collected. The one thing he saved from a childhood where he didn't have much. But research tells me that it is unlikely that newspapers from the 20's or 30's would have brought in dimes the size of the faint imprints. Two cents or a nickle are the more likely price.

And so I wonder if this was something that survived in his pocket during the course of the war. That traveled across oceans on ships and across Burma in trucks on bumpy roads. A talisman of sorts that ensured his safety and allowed him to travel home and meet my mother, which he would have considered his real luck. And would have allowed him to put the purse away as no longer needed. Although still kept.

For years the box was just something I had made that sat in one of Dad's drawers in the tall chest in my parents' bedroom. His underwear drawer to be precise. I saw it often because it was in the same drawer where he threw coins, mainly silver, which I somehow knew had value slightly more than their stated cents. But which were nonetheless tempting when I needed a dime or a quarter for a trip to the swimming pool or a candy bar from the local store.

I saw it differently when I took it from his drawer after he died and looked inside.

And I see it differently now, at a time when it appears that I will be making a move that will require me to get rid of things I no longer need.

My daughter will take some things. And I can box and store other things. But still, what to keep weighs heavy. There will need to be a lot of whittling. Not just of things that have value. But of things I have carried from move to move.

Things like a little leather coin holder that no one knows the story of.




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jl - i am sorry you have to move, although i have loved the feeling of purging to move to my smaller place. i didnt love it when it was happening, but i liked the feeling afterwards. 3 br 2 ba house with full basement and a shed to a 2 br apt is a pretty big change. you might, i hope, be surprised to rather like it, in a way, once its happened. in the meantime, keep that box, and that purse. love and hugs to you.
Where are you moving and why? What about the bookstore? Hope you will post on these subjects. Keep the purse. The tales you wove around it will intrigue your grand kids to create their own. R
daisy and Gerald--It's not really a sad move. My oldest daughter who's a diplomat wants me to follow her family and help out with my grandson and any other kids that come along. I'm visiting her in Africa for a month in a few weeks, so it's possible that'll change her mind. Otherwise, come summer, it's most likely off to DC for a while and then to places unknown. Thus the need for whittling.
jl - thats an AWESOME reason to move! i look forward to many wonderful stories. tho i imagine leaving the bookstore and all your little charges there will be hard. maybe you will get addresses and send them postcards, which will be quite exciting for them, i bet.
How quickly our stories get lost! That explains the feeling of desolation I always get at flea markets - all those human experiences gone forever. (R)
"Things I have carried from move to move." The things we carry. It's so hard to shed the things we think we need but that feeling of lightness is worth it. You'll probably never know the reason your dad kept the coin holder but it obviously meant something to him as he carried it all his life. It's one of those things worth keeping. Good luck with move; sounds exciting!
[r] jl -- be so very careful in Africa, please!!! And your daughter. I am so concerned about the shift of war to there. Well, special ops having been there for a long time but reality is leaking out along with propaganda regarding it.

This is so touching and resonates for me especially with my own recent memoir.

A father's world. I think I read once where the parent of the opposite sex teaches us what to do in the world and the parent of the same sex teaches us how to do it. I hope I got that right, though I can't remember from where I got it.

Questions we never asked our parents can come to haunt us. But there is a mystique as Gerald suggests -- the mystery maybe far stronger than the reality would have been.

best, libby
toritto--I'll probably keep the purse. You never know, it could bring luck to a new beginning.

Judy--I guess we just need to remember that new ones keep getting made.

Margaret--I've shed quite a bit every time I've moved. So far I've never regretted the lighter load. Luckily, the coin purse doesn't take up much space.

libby--We were on the same page. Your post inspired this one.
As for Africa, my daughter's in a stable country. My biggest worry will probably be mosquitoes.
It's the little things taking almost no space in a box, that take up far more space in our hearts. I've only missed one large thing that I have passed on or given away in one of the many moves to a smaller life. I think of the little things far more often -- and wonder, what was I thinking? I still can't answer the question, but if I had done so at the time I doubt I would still be remembering those little things. 'Fly lighter, go higher' drives my ongoing purges, but now I make certain I know why and what I am letting go when I do so.

You will have the world's best Guide to DC when you get there. I hope Joan Haskins stops in and reads this. It sounds like you are well on your way to flying higher. Thanks for this inspiration today.
I am a fan of sentimental keepsakes. When downsizing, my acid test is to gather everything "precious to me" that I could potentially let go of into a box (cardboard, not cigar), pledging to myself I can only take back three items to keep. Somehow the psyche just knows what it needs.
Gabby--I think you're right about the little things. When my parents died, we let the grandkids pick things they would go for the bigger and better items. My daughter wanted this ugly little paper holder with a round roll of paper she used to draw on. We had already thrown it away.

Sally--You've come up with a good test. I think I'll try it. Could I take back five items though?
Jeanne, I am not quite sure why I am aching reading this. I guess because I have let so much go, or precious things have been stolen in my moves, and I cannot touch my past. Yes, that is it. I don;t know about you, but I need to touch things, like those outlines, and smell things to bring everything back. That is why it does not have to be big, or expensive. It is how it feels under the finger and how it smells, for me anyway.

Second, wow, here you go. Your life, and hopefully your continued blog posts, are about to change significantly. Change is exhilarating and wrenching. I hope you will keep us posted.

Calm and peace to you as you navigate into your new chapter.
Lovely piece of writing with exquisite details. I'm pretty sure that box will follow you.
To a wonderful new chapter... ~r
What a wonderful reason to need to move, I envy you the freedom and if it does not work out it sounds like you have that covered too. I could not imagine needing to purge my stuff, not that I have that much but that what I have I know why I have it. I'm so glad you have a memory to keep of your dads.