Where did she put it?

Where did she put it? I told her not to throw it out, begged her even. Perhaps she had stashed it away like an old Christmas sweater too ugly to wear, too laden with memories to discard. I rummaged through her closet, digging through sandals and pumps and loud scarves she had carried away from various second time arounds, what she called the treasures of the thrifty. I moved aside a pair of burgundy cowboy boots he had bought her that summer and reached further inside the rubble of the past. The tips of my fingers grazed the scratchy-squeaky canvas material I was looking for, and my shoulders relaxed.

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I gently tugged my old duffel bag out from it's prison and released it from the stifling bind of creases. Three, four, five times I folded back it's flower and monkey patterned sides, it's peach and fuchsia skin glowing a little brighter by the second. In a careful caress, I carried it back to the rug of my room. I wondered if it had whispered stories to the platoon of accessories in the depth of Mom's closet; of long car rides where we had all sung along to Beatles songs, of campfires and s'mores, of Auntie Ann's blue house in the Berkshires.

Perhaps it had recounted to the cowboy boots the time when Dad had plopped me on his shoulders and the three of us had dashed to catch the plane to San Diego, his cobalt trunk handle clutched under white knuckles and the wide band of my duffel bag looped over his left arm. But neither had made it to the underbelly of the plane to join the rest of the overstuffed luggage, even after Dad yelled at the plump lady at the desk. No sir, no how. We wouldn't have gotten on that plane if Mom was the Queen of Sheba herself, or so she had said, even though Dad had disagreed. Did my bag tell the scarves how Mom and Dad had argued the whole ride home from the airport? How they had continued to yell over my feeble cries, "My shoe, my shoe! Fell off on the run, my shoe!"

I dropped my bag gently on the floor and watched as grains of sand skittered across the pastel bottom like minuscule crabs. The stickers I had once pressed into the canvas with a tiny thumb we're now curling up from the surface they had clung to for so long and I peeled away one circle with a palm tree on the front, examining it's weathered surface. The writing above the jade fronds was barely legible.Naples, Florida, a slice of Paradise. I could still make out the caption, but it looked more like,aples rida, a slice of rise. I tried re-adhering the sticker to the bottom of the bag but it seemed to have parted with it's last ounce of strength upon it's removal and lay feebly unattached, despite my persistence.

God, she really hated that bag. The dark monstrosity occupying the left side of my room was just one of many that had been forced upon me in Mom's efforts to find me a substitute for the "mangy monkey sac". The first of the replacements had been a sleek grey suitcase, snuck into the house while I spent the day at the beach with a friend. When I returned and found it sitting like an unwanted guest on the faded oriental in the living room, I had cried at it's obtrusiveness.

"But it's a better design, Molly, look at the pull out handle!" She had said, but I had kicked it's ugly sides, and soon after it was quietly packaged back up and never spoken of again. A few months later, she tried to make me love a khaki trunk she had found in her travels, but I had remained icily detached.

"I like my bag." I had said stubbornly. Much like the grey suitcase's speedy turnaround, Mom reluctantly gave the foreign trunk the boot.

I had finally finished packing when I heard Mom carefully treading up the stairs. Her footsteps stopped right outside my door, and I thought I heard her take a deep breath, but maybe that was just the breeze coming through the window I had cracked open. She opened the door to my room and I watched as her mouth parted slightly, as if she was about to say something, then closed after a moment had gone by.

"Okay," She finally said. She didn't sound mad really, or even irritated, but what was that in her voice?

"Okay?"

She didn't explain, just pointed at the empty black suitcase.

"I get it, honey. I do. But can you do one thing for me? Just try it out, throw a few sweatshirts in it and bring it along so you have some extra clothes. I know you hate it right now, but I guarantee it's just as good as that ratty old thing." I heard it again, a subtle note of acceptance.

I disagreed with her, the new austere hulk of a suitcase was nothing compared to my monkey patterned, familiar, memory-laden bag. Yet this was the first time she hadn't forced the latest carrier on me. I had scorned it from the minute I saw it, and was prepared to fight to rid myself of the unwanted presence she had bestowed upon me, but it turns out I didn't have to. She had finally acknowledged my attachment to the past, and in doing so I suddenly realized I didn't hate the new suitcase all that much. Heck, it really wasn't so bad after all and maybe, just maybe, I could get used to it.

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Posted in Internet Post Date 05/15/2021


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