Tag Archives: memories

Forty-Third Ring

Most of my elders all contributed to instilling in me a healthy respect for trees. I remember with a degree of shame now how Roan and I rolled our eyes (behind her back, of course) as Mother wailed over taking down the dead birch tree outside her bedroom window.

So much more so, I deeply appreciate this, great piece from Stuart Perkins: https://wp.me/p3EzSK-l0

Forty-Third Ring

Halfway through the tedious count my eyes began to cross. I put a finger on one of the wider rings to mark my place.

“Ninety-seven… ninety-eight… ninety-nine.“ I said to myself as I finished counting. “Wow…”

Ninety-nine clear rings. Taking in to account questionable layers near the bark and several areas made uncertain by chainsaw damage, this oak was easily a hundred years old. But for last week’s ice storm it would still be living. Fallen across the park trail, the city had cut the hefty trunk into several pieces to remove the obstruction.

One hundred years.

That would mean a tiny acorn sprouted and began to form its first ring around the time Woodrow Wilson signed the Treaty of Versailles. Perhaps it emerged just as the Grand Canyon became a national park. Or maybe it struggled towards the light as Congress guaranteed voting rights to all women.

A year passed, a ring formed. Repeat. No matter what… years and rings. Years and rings upon years and rings and Amelia Earhart was flying solo across the Atlantic, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president, and wind whipped across the growing tree just as it did the flag that flew over the Winter Olympics in 1932.

The same year my father was born.

Passage of more time, formation of more rings. Growth was never deterred. Through the horror of the Boston Marathon bombing or NASA’s breathtaking photos of Saturn, a ring was forming. Even as the extraordinary life of Nelson Mandela came to an end, yet another ring formed, in 2013.

The same year my father died.

From the time it gripped earth as a sprouting acorn until the day heavy ice brought it down, the tree not only survived; it grew. Regardless. This majestic beast existed during years of peace and years of war. From its first to its last, so much happened between the rings.

As a sapling, it was already on its way to grandeur before my father was born and it continued to grow after he was gone. One ring the year of his birth, another the year of his death. All he ever did, and was, happened between those rings.

Touching the center of the cross-section of trunk, I dragged my finger towards the outer edge, moving slowly over each of those circular markers of time. I stopped for a second on the forty-third ring. If my calculations were correct, this one was the year I was born, 1962.

I’m unable to articulate what I felt at that moment. There I sat, straddling the trunk of a fallen tree, deep in the throes of profound thought due to the sight of a jagged circle inside a tree? I pressed my finger tight against that forty-third ring.

It was beautiful, I thought, as I noticed a young sapling growing nearby.

“It’s making rings.”  I said out loud. I glanced back down at the one beneath my finger.

My first.

Somewhere in the sapling will be another.

My last.

But what am I going to do between the rings?

Stuart M. Perkins

 

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Second Hand Rosie

Every thing in my cottage is mismatched, piece worked, and mostly vintage. Aside from a few family items, I acquired most everything I own in estate sales, antique stores, flea markets, etc. Like Second Hand Rose, “I rarely get a thing that ain’t been used.” Only I don’t feel abused.

I like the stories that my stuff generate. At this point in my journey it’s fun. This wasn’t always so.

Waiting for the microwave to announce my latte is ready, I wash the dishes in the sink. Memories flow from when I acquired a mug, a plate, a spoon. I remember buying the new sheers now covering my windows – and when my kitten chewed those pin pricks in the selvage.

Not that long ago household items, or rather the stories behind them used to send me into an emotional tailspin. A little further back household stuff could set me running, usually sceamin’ like the banshee, arms flailing as if swatting away a flock of crows – Hitchcock’s The Birds style.

*

When I arrived here at the ranch, this sort of behavior upset the livestock. It was time I put all I learned over the years into practice.

Long ago, before I learned to run from the memories (figuratively speaking – mostly) I’d pretend them away. Eventually fear and anguish bound and locked away much of my memory. Modern medicine calls it Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (CPTSD).

By mid-adulthood I realized this skill had robbed me of much of the joys of my life. Since I clearly hadn’t gotten over it, I got help.

I worked for years with professionals that specialize in helping people with my symptoms. Finding the right help nor the work were easy.

I wanted to quit often. But I missed out on too many good times simply because I didn’t want to remember. I knew if I really wanted to experience “normal” I mustn’t stop the work.

**

I haven’t arrived yet. But instead of the memories dragging me away like an undertow, I can now stop them in place, sort of freeze the frame. At my age eccentric behavior isn’t unusual, so it’s all good. Most of the time I can now reason that what happened didn’t kill me and obviously it won’t stop me – without veering off course.

***

By the time I’d replaced nearly everything I ever owned I realized I had been surviving, not actually living. That’s not the life God wants for me. Sure, our early life was rough for my siblings and me. Sometimes it feels a little sad that I seem to be alone. Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe I’m leading the pack.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

 

*Header, The Birds image courtesy San Francisco Chronicle

***The Bird image courtesy Google

**Hitchcock image courtesy Jason Bovberg 

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Total Recall

human-1138004__180You probably don’t experience moments when your brain seems to freeze up. I do. I can easily imagine what a car overheating would feel like; you’re suddenly stuck where you are, unable to move and it’s all you can do to understand what just happened. You’ll get around to wondering why.

I’ve moved around a lot lately. Having driver’s licenses from three states over seven months, that brain fade lately happens to me frequently. I experience the phenomenon especially when I encounter people I haven’t seen or thought of in years. Maybe it’s a normal homecoming thing. Maybe. It has nothing to do with aging.

This week a woman visited our Community Group adding a fresh touch to our 6 members. I noticed upon entering the house she looked familiar. I assumed I’d seen her in church. I’ve only attended for 5 weeks, so familiar-but-unplaceable faces are commonplace. Hand extended toward her I crossed the room, when she surprised me by standing, opening her arms to me. I welcome hugs among the brethren, so a hug from a newcomer was nice.

Before letting go she said, “Eva.” And then she repeated, “Eva!” I looked more closely and suddenly recognized the woman I’d worked with at the radio station some fifteen years before. Unlike me she hasn’t aged a day!

Nice.

With all the customary jumps, squeals, more hugs and oh-my-goodness-es, we derailed the meeting for a few moments covering the broad strokes. I doubt anyone realized I sat across the room from her so I could see her clearly without glasses (my mid-range). Through the study we bounced ideas off each other like we’d done brainstorming ad campaigns. And the memories kept on coming.

Please don’t ask me for any minute details about the lesson.

Later at home, before my prayers I marveled over how well she’s done;

  • She married,
  • just sold her home and bought a new one in town in one of the newer, upscale neighborhoods,
  • her boy grew up and did time in the Service,
  • she and her husband have a growing business and
  • she still writes advertisements, only at the local TV studio now,
  • she drove the late-model Cadillac SLT that was parked where Roomate typically parks,
  • she and her husband have been charter members of our church since its early beginnings (the one I diverted from ten years ago, going to Illinois instead).

The girl’s done well.

Strangely, sleep didn’t come easily that night. Instead of resting I paced around the apartment looking for little tasks. The rustic character of the place affords them in abundance.

For the first time since my arrival, I wasn’t entirely enchanted with my life.

Before too long (quick as I am these days) I realized I’d wandered onto the slippery slope of the comparison game. Certain my prayers didn’t get past the ceiling, I decided to burn the midnight oil. Before long at all my mind slipped back into how well my former workmate’s done and I began pacing the open spaces of the apartment trying to clear my mind – again.

As I drug my hand across the polished chrome of The Deuce, Cole’s custom Harley Davidson, feeling the smooth, cold metal against my fingertips, I imagined my far more traditional, conservative workmate’s face upon seeing my new digs – and the jokes about the pair of immaculate Harleys inside my home. For the first time I questioned if I actually liked them here.

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I normally enjoy the bikes wintering indoors with me. Both my brothers cherished not only the exceptional machinery and stunningly beautiful detailing, but the memories they made riding them all over the countryside, just as I enjoy their stories of the road.

But I realized I don’t hold title on either bike.

Looking around my rustic cottage apartment:

  • the stained concrete floors (artfully colored, of course),
  • mismatched area rugs, china and flatware,
  • boxes wrapped with contact paper for storage (and temporary makeshift occasional tables),
  • the shabby chic, barnwood tables (Chip and Joanna Gaines would drool over – jus’ sayin’),
  • my late brother’s recliner (that I won’t disown for love or money), etc.

A stranger would imagine that I’m impecunious. With my background of course I am. But I’m pleased with my accomplishments that brought me here:

  • I no longer own a motor vehicle or real estate today. I drive Cole’s vehicles.
  • I actually like hanging my wash to dry rather than run the meter using the clothes dryer,
  • I don’t mind the workout from foraging and chopping wood for heat – yet. (It’s been a mild, beautiful autumn).
  • Six years after near financial ruin, with a microscopic recordable income, my credit score is now average.

So, on paper my estate’s essentially worthless.

But any time I walk out my door, the pack of dogs are happy to greet me. Horses neigh from the pastures and the cows moo whenever they see me walking westward (always glad for any tasty offering). A couple of times a day, no matter what’s going on in the shop, Cole bursts through the door, “just counting noses,” often tossing out some task for me to reinforce I’m wanted – I know, awww… DearOldFriend is always nearby to lend an ear or a shoulder whenever I need one, chatting with my guys help fill the gap when I find time to miss my grand kids and I can text or talk with the rest of the family whenever.

“If you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life.*” 

I spend most of my days doing what I love, so it rarely seems like work. I can walk the acreage without speaking to anyone or find a kindred soul to chat with any time I need to or work on my Spanglish. My age-old dream of a living on a self-sustaining property is gradually becoming a reality.

2013-cmas

 

 

Life could be better, but I’d need some serious time to imagine how. I’ll rest well tonight.

 

It’s good to be home.

 

 

 

“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.”

Galatians 6:4 (NLT)

*Ancient Chinese Philosophy (or Marc Anthony)

Opening image courtesy of Pixabay.

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Techno-kids

My new friend Victo Dolore’s recent post Wormholes at Behind the White Coat… sent my mind rummaging through old memories. I’d been bumbling through technology, again wishing Quinn could help me out – again.

kid phone pixabayI’ll be the first to say I wasn’t the world’s best mom – but I wasn’t among the worst either. Far too young when I started, with barely a clue about life, I’m now an authority on how not to parent.

My grandparents being my rocks, I now take being a grand parent seriously. Experience and not bearing the full burden of responsibility for young humans makes an immense difference.

My guys grew up technologically savvy and passed their skills on to their kids early. Clearly they didn’t get their skills from me, but I’m glad they have them.

On an outing to the zoo with the grand kids I met strong resistance collecting cell phones (from the 8-10 year olds!). “It’s just us today, gang,” I explained as their connections to the world disappeared inside Roo’s magic bag. I heard Ten-Year-Old mumble barely beneath her breath, “Yeah, us and hundreds of other people.”

Toward the end of the visit Eight-Year-Old asked to have one device – any one. He wanted a photo of us all enjoying each another.

Point taken.

Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children.” Proverbs 17:6 (NLT)

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Contentment

Mother’s Day for me is typically an emotional roller-coaster ride. Actually it’s usually a week or so of reflecting, the day itself and then a few days afterward to get over it.

That’s not surprising. I grew up in the aftermath of a metaphoric bomb detonation; divorce (when it wasn’t common) and then our custodial parent’s suicide. Over the following decades my siblings and I labored to locate all our fragments. For the most part we succeeded and we relentlessly continue gluing the pieces back together.

I’m not I’m unique in any of this. And not surprising either, my sons also grew up within a patchwork family (divorces). So with that I’m now reflecting on how well we all live.

The Boys and Erin 1981

Roo’s brood with Erin, 1981

This year was different for me. Over the years many artifacts from my past stayed safely with dear Erin. Among them was a box of photographs that had been thought lost and forgotten for nearly two decades. These were photos of my young sons, old friends, and me from 1978 through 1983. Wow. Right?

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What I especially appreciate today is the new perspective they gave me. When I mainly recall the struggles and hardships, sometimes thinking I’d been the worst mother ever, the photos clearly depict much exploring, happy learning and a lot of fun. While not financially rich, we are indeed wealthy.

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I admit now, I like to imagine happy reunions with my loved ones every year at least. Realistically, disbursed all across the country, with different school schedules and very demanding careers, that’s not likely to happen – yet.

Realistically my siblings and I did not inherit any property or financial stability. What’s more, we have little to pass on to our offspring. Presently I feel blessed to afford myself the luxury of coffee for lattes. But, our offspring have US.

Roo is looking for Iain -who took picture

Roo, nervously looking for Iain – who took the picture

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So, we’ve been geographically distant for Mother’s Days, birthdays and most other holidays. But we’ve adjusted to celebrating our family’s individuals in the moments we find time to Skype, text or actually talk with one another, hoping for actual reunions – soon.

The truth is the best of families have their distances and challenges. We humans are all flawed somehow. Still, like expertly cut diamonds, those flaws brilliantly display our dazzling, true colors.

I’m covered with prisms from my offspring each moment I recall the fun as well as the hardships and sacrifices we made as they were growing up. But now that I’m without any living parents, step-parents, or in-laws I’m happy for one celebratory day a year – preferably my birthday, but actually any day spent with my family works for me.

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Reality; the sooner we understand this world isn’t perfect, and neither are the people in it, the sooner we find contentment. Once we recognize our unrealistic expectations we become free to love people as they are without the disappointments over what we want them to be. Likewise, the sooner I learn text files don’t automatically save, and my day’s work isn’t lost when the battery drains (like today’s), the better.

When it comes to my truly amazing family, better than ever before, I realize my relationships with my loved ones are what they are – literally marvelous!

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Now as I lounge in a folding lawn chair, feet atop a vintage milk crate, sipping an iced latte, in front of the garage where most of my belongings await, I think, “Bless God, this is good enough for me.”

 

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” 1 Timothy 6:6 (NLT)

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The Road Again; Still

My life long friends, Erin and her baby sister Ellie and I hadn’t seen or spent actual live, local face time in about 15 years. With technology one can keep in touch on the phone and internet, etc. But it’s not the same as getting together in the same place, at the same time.

vega rig

My thirty-something-eth relocation brought about our reunion. These heroines drove a trailer south and east, through wind and amazing hail to collect my belongings and me, and then we three set out on our first road trip in decades. Crossing Texas and New Mexico en route to western Colorado I particularly noticed :

first Rockies

  • Hugs. Especially random hugs for no apparent reason. When they’re few and far between one really misses them. I’m glad to report they’re very easy to get used to again.
  • Body language and reading faces is kind of a big deal.
  • Coffee. I’m jealous of my girls who can drink coffee late in the day and still sleep like a baby. It’s so not fair while I must cut off all forms of caffeine before noon!
  • Aches and Pains. I’m astounded at how our bodies have aged over the years. The packing, lugging and loading took its toll on our bodies – before we hit the road on the 4 day journey. After the first 8 hours in the car, I re-discovered places that can ache from sitting.
  • Dings in our armor – we’ve discovered torn cuticles, broken fingernails and colorful shin bones. No bloodshed, no harm, no foul.
  • Junk food rules. Our healthy diets went out the window.
  • Exercise/physical therapy regime; in such tight quarters as a car, it’s hard to do the stuff we do to keep bodies moving freely
  • Older bodies adjusting to altitude changes can be entertaining.

With all of the above challenges, reconnecting with old, family roots makes the entire trip worth any stress leading up to the drive. What feels like home to me:

  • Remembering we were “green,” conserving resources and doing our parts to preserve the earth long before there was a Greenpeace.
  • We know every line and lyric to most of the classic rock hits, as well as the renown parodies and personalities of our generation (we all fondly remember Doctor Demento, Wolfman Jack and Wierd Al Yankovich).
  • We can drop a quote from a classic movie without explaining what it means.
  • We totally get each others’ fashion genre. Not too old to appreciate well fitted mid-rise jeans, we vowed to just shoot each other the day we eye stretch denim or elastic waistbands. This does not include jeggings. 😀
  • None of us minded coasting through Vega on HWY 385 (Route 66, people) to fill a stick of photos – without stopping the engine.
  • We like nice hotels. We agree we need a housekeeper and a spa at home.

Entertainment: Road Trip Games:

  • License Plate Bingo (no one keeps score)
  • Truth or dare is still a classic.

truck gamestruckingPlaying road tag with truckers (waving, coaxing them to blow the horn). Bonus points for getting one to use a Jake break 😉

 

 

  • Naming our favorite concerts ever and confessing our most embarrassing (or happiest) memories there.
    • Note: arriving at The Dead Show without tickets won, hands down.

At the end of day two on the road I look forward to more adventure and settling in – soon.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

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Chickie

As I prepare for another relocation, yet uncertain where this length of my journey will take me, I think about people and events that brought me to the present.

A few years ago, while discussing a similar situation, my darling Aunt Chickie once told me, “I don’t have many words of wisdom for you, Dear, but I can tell you about mistakes, I’ve made them all!” Over the following hours, and the years afterward we laughed through her memories and with each visit the world felt far less severe.

Patty n Chickie

As a youngster I couldn’t comprehend Chickie ever making a mistake. Now I can appreciate how in hindsight some of her choices may have seemed so to her, but not to me. Raising three teen-aged children in the petulant 1960’s, I can only now imagine she may have felt fallible at times. As a single mother I certainly made some hard choices. She mastered putting any blunder behind her.

Most notable, Chickie never complained. Though a devout Christian, divorced, her inheritance was a devoted mother who often lived with her. She happily married again and became an exceptional step-mother as well. Despite any hardships, Chickie’s lively demeanor was a beacon to us youngsters.

Regardless of the desert heat causing my occasional sweaty, rank arrivals to her home, she always greeted me with genuine smiles, warm hugs and refreshed me. With each visit she told the best stories with helpful, happy, and usually funny anecdotes.

Chickie was a hero. She was and will always be a shining example of gentle, kind love that she consistently poured out on my siblings and me.

Today, while preparing a picnic lunch for my long drive ahead, I remembered helping Chickie make the same recipe I was employing. Long ago, gathering for a particular Memorial Day family outing, she welcomed me into her kitchen to help her prepare the potato salad. In her company I didn’t feel like a fumbling, awkward, insecure pre-teen. She made me feel like a welcome companion.

Blending the dressing into the chopped vegetables and minced pickles, up to her wrists with her bare hands, she suddenly stopped.

Looking intently in my direction, she wondered aloud, “Hmm… Did I wash my hands after I used the bathroom?” Then she overacted a relieved sigh, and answered, “Certainly I did.” Then as she eyed a piece of pickle sticking to her hand she added, “Oh, but then I fingered in my nose…”

For an instant I almost wretched, but, noticing the twinkle in her eye (and remembering how fastidious, the icon of a lady was about washing up upon entering the house and especially the kitchen), we both laughed heartily, drawing the rest of the family into the room with us. And so it always went at Chickie’s house.

Our only paternal aunt, she grew up best friends with Mother and our maternal aunts. Their combined talents for dramatically telling their stories from parochial school, like sabotaging the fearsome “Sister Rosetta Stone’s” yard stick/cane so it would break on the first strike, for instance. These first-person tales vividly etched in my mind, they provided me bright, happy memories. Such recollections often dispelled some of the menacing gloom and confusion that paved my coming years.

In today’s confusing and uncertain world I often draw upon the wealth my family ingrained in me. Chickie helped me recognize how princesses made paupers, we shine as we rise to heights which even darker, sadder souls would not otherwise aspire. Following her example, my sincerest hope is to shine God’s spirit bright enough to inspire others to rise also.

Mary Chickie Green Prince

“Chickie”
1927 – 2014

With fondest affection and deepest admiration.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Romans 12:9,10 (NLT)

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The Flicker and the Fish

It’s been another roller-coaster week. Beginning on an even plane today, having stepped into my routine, coffee gone I made a pot of tea. At my desk, I pulled a file from my trusty drafts folder and dove in.

As I worked something began flickering somewhere on by mind’s periphery. Static images don’t easily distract me, but I can’t ignore a flicker. After a few minutes, still unable to keep my mind in my work I laced up, stretched out and hit the trail.

Returning refreshed, invigorated and focused I wrapped up the task, set it aside to cure and headed for the shower.

Back at work, after starting a new file I noticed the flicker again. Something intangible seemed to be vying for my attention. I checked my calendar and confirmed I hadn’t missed an important date. I turned to the white board to keep focused.

Satisfied with my outline I returned to my text. After some time that nagging feeling I couldn’t identify was back. The file was ready to rest, so I closed it for the time being and sat quietly to meditate and clear my mind.

rocks-on-stream-2592x1936_99622Before very long thinking of nothing turned into pleasant memories; a stream, Poppy and my Uncle, wet rocks and the exhilarating air among the pines that filled the landscape surrounding my grandparents’ cabin. We were fishing. I would cast my line and happily watch the lure disappear into the water.

swimming-trout-on-water-3648x2736_93672I felt the pole in my hands jerk. I pulled the rod back in the opposite direction as I had watched Poppy and Unc do often. Wheeel! Whizz! bzzzz… Splash! A trout. My very first catch. I didn’t care that the sun was burning my face. I was so mesmerized by the life pulling and tugging back and forth at the end of my line.

Unc stood there with the net still at his side. “It’s a keeper. What ya wanna do, Girl?” My arms frozen, one hand gripped tightly around the cork pole grip, my other hand reaching for the line. Sunlight set the colors of the fish dazzling as it swished and bent back and forth across the water. As I reeled it in closer and lifted it, I felt its desperation to return to the water.

I glanced at Unc’s face. That wink – assuring me he’d be proud of whatever I wanted to do. I heard Poppy some yards farther up, urging Unc to net the fish. I wanted Poppy to be proud of my catch too. I wanted everyone to be impressed as we walked up to the porch like they were when my brother brought in his first catch the summer before. I wanted to feel that way badly. Then I saw the fish’s eyes. And Unc saw into mine.

Six foot tall, Unc’s long-legs easily stepped around blocking Poppy’s view of me, he never took his eyes from mine as I gazed at “my” catch. Pocket knife already in his hand he snapped it open. It felt like hours flew by while the fish struggled against my line. I couldn’t put my all into reeling and pulling it closer. Still watching me carefully, Unc cut the line and just that quickly the fish was gone from sight. I felt instantly relieved.

the-clean-stream-4320x3240_63085His smile bright as the sun, he bent and splashed the water with the free hand, bringing the net close between us and then called over his shoulder to Poppy, “Aw, the line broke.” Poppy fussed under his breath as Poppy sometimes did. Still smiling, Unc straightened and responded, “We should’ve used that other reel.” Catching the end of my line, he quietly said to me, “We needn’t mention the knife. Hamburgers sound better to me anyway.” Again, that understanding wink.

And in another instant I could feel my breath again exactly as I felt it way back then. Relieved. I remember gathering pine cones on the way back, our arms free of any fish. Unc would point to bare spots teasingly to send me where there were no pine cones and we’d laugh.

I took a deep breath, gazed out the window to the giant pines across the street and imagined I could smell them through the closed windows. Unc had always been my hero but there is so much more to tell about him.

I returned to my desk…

To be continued.

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About Self Storage

Obsession over possessions fascinates me. I invested more than $13,200.00 in self storage over nineteen years. Except for a couple of pieces that are worthless to anyone else, everything I stored is gone and forgotten now.

Throughout that time I drove the same, cool, pickup truck I bought for $9,000. It had gone 7,000 miles when I bought it. The day I sold it, over 353,000 miles later, I was positive it had thousands more miles left on it.

Three years later, after very little work, the same old truck I sold for $400 is still running strong.

I wonder if things in self storage for more than a few months need to move on. I could have bought a nice, newer vehicle with the money I spent hanging on to stuff I couldn’t keep. But I treasure the memories from all the miles that great old truck carried me.

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