Saying goodbye to objects from our past is a difficult and emotional event we all experience. It can be a small object with a closet of sentimentality attached, or a large item that carries only a handbag of memories. Either way, we grow attached to them, and to let them go can feel like burying a part of our past. Some people are never able to let go, and each room becomes a shrine to these attachments, no matter how insignificant.
Today I decided to let something go from my past; from my way, way back past. Growing up, we had a canary yellow ceramic elephant planter. And while I am sure at some point in its life prior to my memories, it had served the intended purpose of holding a plant; this is not how I learned to love it.
You see, my mom possessed the experience of teaching both first and third grades, and so when I came around, she already had a pretty good handle on entertaining young children. (Admittedly, she had to wait a few years for me to catch up to that age, but she did a bang-up job winging it until then.) Anyway, as a precocious young lady of 4, it was in the household’s interest that I be given some direction on a rainy day, lest I create a book tower from everyone’s books in the living room or attempt to disassemble the furniture. Enter the Yellow Elephant.
My mom’s solution was to write down a bunch of different activities (which I got to add to as well) on little slips of paper. These slips would then go into the Yellow Elephant’s back. On a rainy day, the Yellow Elephant would come out, and the papers mixed about. I would then reach my little hand into the hole and pull out my activity for the day. (Looking back on it now, I am pretty sure that mom would make a tactical decisions as to which papers were available to choose from each time.) If memory serves me right, I could draw again if I did not want to do that particular choice, but I could only draw once more. Then I could choose between the two. That was the deal.
As I got a little older and started going to school on a daily basis, the Yellow Elephant took on a new role, one of Weekend Coordinator. If there was a day where there was nothing previously planned (birthday party, out-of-town trip, visitors, etc.) an adventure would get pulled from inside. Sometimes it was the park, or the pool; later, when we lived in D.C. it was often going to a museum or a monument. And because it was the Yellow Elephant suggesting the adventure, I was less likely to be stubborn about the whole thing.
Eventually, I stopped drawing slips of paper out of its back, and the Yellow Elephant was repurposed once again. After I moved out, it came with me, and I used it for various things (mostly to hold my kitchen utensils.) Every time I moved, the Yellow Elephant was carefully packed away, and just as carefully unpacked in its new home. Every time, that was, until this most recent move.
Last May, I packed up my house in Alabama, and moved up to North Carolina to be with my fiancé. Eventually, we bought a house and started the process of shifting all the boxes from my storage unit to their new home. Every day I would pull some of the boxes stacked in the garage and start unpacking, tasked with the difficult job of finding everything a new home. I finally made my way to the box labeled “Yellow Elephant”, and excitedly opened it up, knowing exactly where I would put it.
Except my Yellow Elephant was not there. In its place were broken shards of ceramics; yellow on one side and white on the other.
This was last September.
Almost a year later, I have finally been able to face the contents of that box again. I laid out the pieces that I could find (some of the smaller pieces had been lost in the shredded paper and packing material) and I started to glue them back together. At this point, I don’t see myself keeping the final product. I know that even though it holds its shape again, it can never be the same. But I felt I owed it to my memories to at least try putting it back together, before I said goodbye.
I know that even though the object that gave me all those good memories is no longer what it was, I can still carry on the spirit of what that object meant to me.
Who knows what my children will draw paper slips from on a rainy day….
Perhaps an Orange Hippo.