Monday, July 15, 2013


Belonging, noun:
1. possession, personal effect
2. close or intimate relationship

It was a Saturday morning and I was poking through one of three huge boxes of purses lining the edge of a yard cluttered with a life's accumulation of belongings. The girl having the yard sale was still in her twenties, too young to have amassed such a collection. I struck up a conversation about all those purses; the objects I find most interesting are the ones with a story. So she gave me the story: My mother died.

Instantly, I was transformed from shopper to vulture, picking around the corpse for a juicy morsel. When my grandmother died, my mother refused to sell any of her belongings. She couldn't bring herself to let strangers judge and haggle over her mother's memories. I thought she was foolish, giving everything away when it could be sold for good money. Now, I understood.

I bought a purse, but I couldn't get past its story. Every time I went to use it, I felt the weight of regret at making that poor girl put words to her sadness. Months went by before I finally decided to carry the purse to a going away party for a friend. As I rummaged for a lipstick in the dark hallway outside the ladies room, I looked up to find the girl from the yard sale standing beside me, eyes fixed on her mother's purse. A bemused smile broke through the sadness on her face: Today is the two year anniversary of my mother's death.

Belongings can have stories, and maybe some can even have ghosts, who slip out of the shadows to appear at just the right moment.