Hayley had abandoned her battered car at her friend’s, Erik, parent’s house after leaving medical de-tox AMA (against medical advice) in August. It had a flat tire, a dead battery, and the electrical system was screwed up after the radio and CD player had been ripped out/stolen five months previously. The car was full of Hayley’s clothes, unopened mail, and miscellaneous paraphernalia. Hayley had essentially been living out of her car for months, using it as a closet and storage unit.
I went to Erik’s parents’ house to clean out the car and make arrangements for it to be towed. I threw a lot of things into the garbage and the rest into a black plastic trash bag to take home, clean, and store. I thought I had finished salvaging her belongings when I cleaned out her apartment from which she had been evicted, in June. But no – – – here was more evidence of her damaged life to sort through and make decisions about.
When I opened the car trunk, I saw a dented, ragged, frayed cardboard moving box labeled, “Impt Stuff”. Its contents were heart-breakingly sentimental and surprising: her 4th grade planet report on Saturn; a typed pesonal letter from my dad, her grandfather, dated 1994; a framed photo of the 1987 Nutcracker cast in which she was one of the “party children”, a coveted role for little girls in our community; high school and middle school year books; a Certificate of Commendation for Outstanding Academic Accomplishment from the 6th grade; a ski racing bib; her high school varsity tennis team captain plaque; her high school athletic letter; a framed needlepoint teddy bear from my mom, her grandmother; a small musical jewelry box with her ballerina necklace in it; the polar bear sweater I knit for her in high school; and more.
Hayley is the most sentimental of my three children – she saves everything and, I think, cherishes family keepsakes. She’s the one that wanted my grandmother’s china; she wore vintage gowns from an elderly friend’s closet to Homecoming and Prom. She has always been interested in and appreciated the family history, stories, artifacts, heirlooms. The irony is, that she will most likely never have a physical place for these things in her life.
This trait of keeping everything is very much entrenched in my own family. My parents and grandparents kept everything to the point of obsession, without a lot of priority – from a receipt in 1952 for a 25 cent flashlight battery to my great grandfather’s discharge papers from the Civil War. The chore of going through and sorting endless drawers and files of junk, has been offset by discovering old letters, photos, documents and personal notes which are a priceless paper trail of my ancestors’ lives. I’m a member of this club, also. I seem to need a 3200 square foot house to store all my ‘stuff’. Hayley had kept almost five years of unopened mail, thrown in to bureau drawers – all of it bad news – which I brought home and opened when I chose to retrieve some of her things from her abandoned apartment. These envelopes contained a different kind of paper trail that still haunts me. Opening each one was a stab to my heart and tangible evidence of my daughter’s out-of-control life.
Hayley still has her blankie from when she was a baby – and sleeps with it every night. However, last April, she was not allowed to take it with her when she spent four days in jail for a shoplifting offense. She had privately lived with and carried around this impending jail sentence for nine months, and I believe the shame and anxiety of it all contributed to her ‘flip’ into hard drug use. After I picked her up from serving her four days in jail, I wrote this:
I know she’s thirty . . . but
she needs her blankie.
Can she have it . . .
in the Wapato City Jail?
She’s never slept
Oh, the comfort of
that tattered, yellow rag . . .
A silky, thin veil
of relief from
The secrets and lies,
shame and worry.
She needs her blankie.
Can she have it . . . please?