Day 3 : Wants and needs and the ocean between

For Judah, from a classmate.

For Judah, from a classmate.

We're down to packing up the last bag. The house is empty. Judah and I are sleeping on the living room floor.

For Josey and me, this is our ninth move in twelve years. It’s Judah’s seventh in ten. Of them all, this move might be the hardest because, of any place we’ve ever called home, we’ve lived here the longest, and we’re moving with the least amount of stuff.

Our lives need to fit in fifteen suitcases.

The decision of what we need to bring home and what we want to bring home is suddenly dwindled down to and decided by space and kilograms. Whatever fits can go. Whatever can’t, stays.

The books I love or hope to read, the jars my wife found in corner markets or on her China adventures, and the coffee cups that we’ve used every morning are placed on the scale of need and want. Then, they’re left behind. Sold, or given away. Because we only have fifteen bags.

Pine cones from my backpacking trip to KangDing are put in trash, covering Judah’s schoolwork from the year and some of Eden’s artwork.

Because we only have fifteen bags and what we want cannot trump what we need. Even though the scale seems unbalanced.

Then, a letter falls from a pile of books and floats to the floor. There are more. Some are simple notes of encouragement or love, others say “Thank you.” All of which overwhelm my heart with memories and moments and sweet, sweet times - of good friends. I tuck them back into the books they’ve fallen from and stuff them all deep into the bag. We only have fifteen bags, but there is always room for cards.

Good words from a good friend. (Also, I no longer have the email, but still do the note).

Good words from a good friend. (Also, I no longer have the email, but still do the note).

While looking through Judah’s backpack, I find a few more from his classmates, and they are the sweetest friggen things.

And I get to thinking.

There’s something about getting a note, a hand-written note, that seems so personal, so important. I have a shoe box full of letters back in the states from when Josey and I dated for two years long distance. Even though I wrote them almost fifteen years ago, whenever I read them, I can still remember most every place I wrote them, because they were intensely personal, and because they took so much time.

Author Simon Garfield says that the art of letter writing is dying, and for obvious reasons: Email. Email has transformed our world, making communicating much faster, much easier, and much more efficient. But what these emails lack, according to Garfield, is depth and emotion. They tend to be much more factual and functional, rather than personal. We read, write, send, then move on and read, write, send – quickly forgetting what we read, wrote, and sent.

Letters, however, take time, not just to write, but the whole process. There’s the finding of the address, writing it out, finding a stamp, stamping it, then getting the letter to the mailbox. All the while, we could have written over a dozen emails. Emails that, over the course of just a few hours, will have been lost in the shuffle, deleted, or ignored.

Letters, however, good letters, make an impact and are not easily forgotten. They are personal and a physical manifestation of how much someone means to you. Which is why they are found pinned to caulk boards or refrigerators, and why they fall from books and come back to life, over and over again.

We only have fifteen bags. We can’t take everything we want, only what we need. And packed inside our needs are letters I hope to lose and then find, over and over again.


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Last Hundred Days