Poems & Essays

17 Apr

Lessons From the Past

General/Column One Response

I started out looking for something benign and found myself on an archeological dig, unprepared. Barefoot. Surrounded by spider webs, catching the occasional glimpse of their inhabitants. The type whose long, paper-thin legs and tiny bodies seem prehistoric, forgotten somehow.

My imagination is far too wild for me to spend more than three minutes in a basement. Yet here I am, digging through piles of things that have remained untouched since we moved in. Among the sleeping bags, baby toys, and Christmas decorations lay the artifacts of my past. The historical documents that prove my existence, my journey.

Looking into the bin in front of me is kind of like cracking my head open and peering inside. There are painful memories and sweet ones. Photos of friends who are now strangers. Boyfriends who are now anecdotes. I look at pictures of myself and realize that even I am a bit foreign to me now.

I’m not sure I know the girl smiling at the camera, but truthfully, I’m not quite used to the woman looking at the picture, either. Three years and two children have transformed me in many ways, most of which a camera can’t capture.

There are boxes and boxes of photos, from the days when we couldn’t see what the photo looked like before we took it. Even blurry, dark, unflattering shots still exist in the basement where upstairs I hear the thunder of my children’s feet stomping, happy and carefree. Will they have the experience of unearthing relics from their past in private? Or will their youth be both intangible and fair use, held captive in pixels?

I continue to sift. Diplomas, diaries, notes passed during science class. Proof that I have lived, traveled, accomplished. A letter from my godmother during my pre-teen years contains such poignant advice for my thirty-something self I almost cry.

I start to count my blessings, beginning with her.

This box contains heartbreak, yes—both the awkward, middle-school variety and the throbbing, life-altering kind. But mostly it contains joy. It’s all me. I know what it is and why it’s there. Every thing matters enough that I couldn’t part with it then and don’t want to now. Still, I realize I am not interested in unearthing my old pain or even my old joy. That’s how I know I’m happy, I think.

I close the box, snap the lid in place. Pick up the paper towel roll I originally came down here for and walk back upstairs to my husband, my kids–my life.



Stacy Firth is a writer and content strategist who helps moms who are small business owners and solopreneurs tell their stories online. She’s also the mama of two. For years she’s been writing stories in her head, and now she’s writing them down. You can find her at stacyfirth.com

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1 Comment

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  1. Heather Tencza

    April 17, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    I love this. As I continue to get rid of old things to make room for new things, I often wonder if I’ll miss having boxes of artifacts to dig through. But, like you, I’m learning that my lack of desire to keep all this stuff teaches me that I am happy. And it shows that I am slowly, slowly learning to live in the present. Thank you for this beautiful essay!


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