The people, clutching their items, approach my section of the long checkout counter in a rapid and dizzying succession. A knobbly cabled cotton cardigan is followed by a 7-pound pea coat. A cashmere hoody slinks in, soft and seductive, and jumps on the counter like a black cat. Shoe boxes shout their presence and succumb unwillingly to the paper bag at my feet. Rubber boot keychains, cookies shaped like totebags and lobster lollipops bob to the eddy of my shore as the river of customers flows by. On rainy days, the river runs strong.
I'm temporarily working in the capitalist machine of consumer goods, albeit a family business with a great reputation for quality and valuing their employees. The human personalities in the stream of customers are at times strong, I become more attached to the items that float by. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have that?” a small voice whispers as athletic pants appear on the counter before getting slipped into a paper bag. The want tugs gently at my shirtsleeve like a 3-year-old, pleading, "Buy this, accumulate that, build a fortress of clothing around you as the temperature dips to the frost point." Driving home close to midnight after my shift ended, the headlights illuminate the red and yellow leaves. The full moon is high over the fallow fields as I venture through the fog wisps. Like the chipmunk with full cheeks, I am thinking ahead to winter.
Thus far, I am able to resist the purchase to buy brand new but still wrestle with the reality that I need to be outfitted with clothing for winter. There are finds at thrift stores and the employee store, I seek in waiting to accumulate objects that are sturdy, utilitarian, funky, and have some soul.
But in fact, I miss the objects that have disappeared in years of moving around. The handmade knitting needle case that may have been misplaced in the roof of my vehicle and disappeared as a drove to the next destination. A custom crocheted knitting bag with stunning intricacy and care, traded for a handknit set of socks, hat, and mitts, that lost in the mail with a simple decision not to insure the box, My grandmother’s stainless steel bracelet, perhaps fallen from a pocket in the aftermath of an MRI on a still troublesome upper back and shoulder, was missed immediately yet not found anywhere at the hospital. The sea kayaking jacket that accompanied me on multiple expeditions, the ultimate defense against pouring rain, high winds, and cold temperatures, was given away in the frenetic days of the house sale. To where and whom it was given, I cannot remember.
If I knew these special items were destroyed in a fire, it would be easier to let them go. When I am settled and long to nest, these objects haunt me. The hungry ghosts arise in thoughts with regret, longing, and disappointment, I am remorseful over the past mistakes and carelessness that tossed them into an abyss of misplacement. One can only hope that there were adopted by another instead of lying in layers of garbage in a horrific landfill.
When the need strikes, I unpack the boxes looking for the things that were moved from the house. They are there, in all the joyful understatedness of packed away presence. As I find the places for them in my new home, I find that these things enrich my soul and give me joy. I am able to hear their stories.