Earlier this week, I visited my grandmother. She is moving, and finally kicking all of my stuff out of her basement. I sorted through dolls I used to collect, wondering, “If I have a daughter, will she want my American Girl Molly doll?” Sometimes, the answer was no, but I tossed the doll or figurine or whatever into my “keep” pile anyways. Some things are just too precious to give away.
But by far the most valuable things that I brought home with me are not dolls that I had as a child, and are not really things that I owned at all. Instead, they are the pictures that detail my life as a baby. They are the pieces that my parents left behind, which strengthen the link between them and me. They are ancient family photos that confirm, with evidence, that my grandmother was once a young woman, that my mother and father were vibrant teenagers in love. My head knew this, and the photos serve as reminders to my heart.
Recently, I have been so busy living in the present and the future (working on my next book, anticipating the birth of a friend’s baby), that I have spent little time looking back. And sometimes it is painful to remember a time when things were so different, when I didn’t know what cancer was. But this trip filled a void for me that I didn’t know I had inside. It reconnected me with a past that was, overall, a wonderful thing and a gift from the people who loved me then and continue to love me now.