When I came to America over twenty years ago I arrived with two suitcases holding all of my belongings. Packed with care, they held everything I thought I needed for the next year of my life in this new and exciting country.
Over the past twenty-something years my earthly belongings have doubled and quadrupled many times over. I can no longer fit all my “treasures” into two suitcases. My trove of ‘stuff’ could fill two trucks.
Now that my kids are at school I have decided to declutter my home. This beautiful William Morris quotation is my guideline for this momentous task.
“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know
to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
– William Morris
But as I gathered and sorted, trashed and saved, dug deeper into closets and those dangerous storage corners of my infamous basement, I found them.
My two suitcases!
My trusty companions traveled across the Atlantic on an Aer Lingus plane with me, starting me out on my American journey. They are not-so-beautiful, and definitely not-so-useful anymore.
Although faded they retain their tapestry pattern. I must have thought I was cool back then. Who remembers this supposedly-trendy, vintage-look of eighties luggage? Cases with teal green backgrounds were very popular, but I chose the fall look, boasting golden hues.
My case was the roller kind. Remember the ones with four tiny wheels secured to the bottom. Each wheel had a devious mind of its own. No two wheels spun in the same direction, so the case inevitably toppled over. I always ended up dragging mine on its side across the airport floor, dirtying that tapestry facade.
The handle resembled a dog leash, adding to the overall lack of control. May God bless whoever invented roller-boards and stow-away handles.
Now my second suitcase probably should not be called a suitcase at all. A “wardrobe bag” is what I think they were named. The idea was to hang your clothes inside, zip it up, fold it over, and strap it together. Supposedly your suits arrived wrinkle free and ready to go.
That is, if the silly hook at the top didn’t catch in the revolving bag belt at the airport, causing a major luggage backup. Cases jockeyed for position, hooks fenced each other, as the belt just kept going and going. Eventually bags started toppling over onto the ground, the guilty wardrobe bag mangled at the bottom of the mess.
And so, my old tapestry bags are neither beautiful, nor useful.
Should I throw them away?
This is a difficult one for me. I get nostalgic when I see them.
They remind me of my past, my transition, my innocence. They are symbols of my adventurous spirit, my pioneering ways of youth. Nothing akin to an old covered wagon of the old west, but still they represent the biggest change I ever undertook in my life.
I had so little in the world back then – just the contents of these two suitcases. Yet, I was happy, filled with anticipation and wonder. They remind me I do not need “things” to be happy. What makes me happy now is my family and they will never fit in two suitcases.
And so as I continue my pursuit of happiness, I will de-clutter with a vengeance. Stuff is never important in life.
But perhaps, I will hold on to my two suitcases.
Who knows? In years to come my children may donate them to an immigration museum as a prime example of how people traveled in the 1980’s. Someday they may be prominently displayed in all their faded glory, just like the bags from the early 1900’s in the Baggage Room at Ellis Island.
These two suitcases may no longer be beautiful or useful in a physical sense, but the memories they evoke, the life lessons they remind me of, are truly beautiful and useful.
Slán agus beannacht leat!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom