January 28, 2016

You know that age-old hypothetical question, “if there was a fire, what would you save from your house?”

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For me, it would be my scrapbooks. That always has been my answer, and it still is. There is nothing more important to me than my family and friends and the experiences we’ve shared together. Photos cannot be replaced, ever.

But sometimes you don’t get a choice. And sometimes you just don’t realize how much something means to you until it’s gone. A few weeks ago, the movers came to our new home in Connecticut. One minute I was planning out where my photos and couches would go, the next everything was going back to be sorted through. Two weeks later, I discovered that all of our furniture, electronics, and books were gone. Mold had spread throughout almost everything we own. Just like that, it was all gone. All because the movers were careless.

Yesterday, Nick and I went to a warehouse so that a professional staff could go through our items. They looked for mold and decided what could be saved, and what has to be discarded. As the professionals started going through our stuff, I wasn’t too upset when I found out that our couches, desk, tables, chairs, mattresses, bed, and even all of our electronics need to be replaced. Of course I like having these things – I sure do love having a couch to lounge around on and a table to eat at. But they are replaceable. They still sell the exact same couch, and I plan to get it again.

I was doing fine all day long. It was overwhelming and tiring but getting rid of mold is way more important to me than trying to cling to any of my possessions. I would rather start over completely, I would rather get rid of every single thing I own, including my scrapbooks, than have any mold in my house that will cause any health problems.

Towards the end of the day, I opened up wet boxes that contained my favorite books and a binder in which I kept the best papers I had written in college. I am a huge nerd – I loved writing papers for my English classes, thinking about the best arguments, discussing them with my professors, and perfecting sentences until I found the exact right words. I started taking pictures for my records when I lost it. Tears fell over my books and papers.

For the past two weeks, I had been telling myself and everyone else that it’s just stuff. Stuff shouldn’t matter. I know that it actually doesn’t matter. The visceral reaction I had to seeing my books and my best papers completely ruined surprised even me. My books tell the story of me – the things I love, the stories that have shaped my life, the authors who feel like old friends.

There were the books that my aunt had given me, before she passed away. Ever year, she would think about the best books that she had recently read. She would pick out a couple for me that she knew I would love. I always did.

There were my Harry Potter books. I had gotten these first edition books before it was a hit series.  And then once they became a hit, I would dutifully wait in line at midnight every time a new book came out.

There were the anthologies that I had studied in college, scribbled with notes.

There was a book of poetry, written by my college professor. He had written a message to me and signed it.

There was the Writer’s Thesaurus that my brother got me when I got my first job as a writer.

There was the copy of Ulysses that I had spent an entire semester trying to read. It was so torn and had so many notes written in it that my professor gave me a brand new, hardcover copy at the end of the semester.

There were books that my friends and family had given me, from all over the world.

There were the rare, first edition of some of my favorite books, that I had slowly been collecting.

There were the papers that I had written that had given me the confidence that I might be able to go out and get paid to be a writer.

I had been saving these books and papers because I love them, but also in case I decide to go out and get that English Masters.

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Most of these things can be replaced. I don’t know why exactly I was so upset over this stuff. I have never wanted to own a lot of things. I don’t consider myself materialistic. I parted with many things yesterday without worry. But I can’t help the way I feel about these books that have become a part of me. In time, I will get over it. I will slowly replace these items.

I don’t write this post so that anyone will feel bad for me. I write it because now I feel like I have to chase that feeling, that love for my books and the things I have written, and see where it leads me. I am going to use that feeling that I didn’t know I had to push myself forward, to keep on reading and writing and thinking and arguing and loving.


What do you love? What does that say about the life you want to live?



10 responses to “What do you love?”

  1. Jenn says:

    Girl I am so sorry that this happened! I am the same way, I don’t care about a lot of the stuff we own but losing my books and photos would devastate me. It’s definitely normal to feel attachment to some things and be sad when they’re gone. I hope the moving company at least attempts to make this right, or as right as they can. *hugs*

    • Carolann says:

      Oh Jenn, when you do your next move with the military I have so much advice for you, if you want. The number one thing is to not let them take anything out of the house if it is raining! They should just have to come back another day. It is not an unreasonable request from what I understand – I just didn’t know. I am currently compiling a list of all of my books (I was able to take pictures), and two other companies are assessing our other damages to furniture and stuff. So they will make it right, but they just can’t replace some things. Next time I am hand carrying my scrapbooks with me and anything else that is irreplaceable – I will never give them to a moving company again!

  2. Oh Carolann,I know you don’t want anyone to feel bad for you but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel your pain reading this, I can fully understand why those books meant so much to you – there was so much history in them, so much nostalgia and so many memories. I’m sure it will spur you on though to create new special memories, new books that tell their own stories on your shelves in years to come. Big hugs. x

    • Carolann says:

      It’s the memories that get to me. I remember waiting in line to get the new Harry Potter books and then sitting in my parents’ backyard reading them. I remember lugging around the anthologies and taking notes as my professors were talking. I associate so many of my favorite books with certain people, times, or places. But like you say, I will make new memories with my new books. I am sure I will discover books and have some new memories that I never would have had otherwise.

  3. Emma says:

    I’m honestly not sure what I would try & grab myself – possibly the photo books under my coffee table…

    • Carolann says:

      Photo books for sure. They are one of the few things that cannot be replaced, especially those photos from our travels.

  4. Lea says:

    All that “stuff” has made you the wonderful and amazing person that you are today. Despite the fact that “stuff” is gone, the impact that all of those things – the memories that lined the pages of your scrapbooks, the books and papers, and everything else you treasured – will last a lifetime.

    The quote on my desk today reads, “Turn your wounds into wisdom.” I couldn’t help but think about what you’ve been going through and know that deep down, somewhere, there is a lesson in all of this. I know you will learn from this experience and somehow become a better person because of it. (Not that you aren’t already amazing!)

    Most importantly, through all of this the only thing that matters is that you are ok. Things can be replaced, people certainly cannot.

    Love you bunches.

    • Carolann says:

      Thanks so much, sweet friend. I never really thought about how much the things that we surround ourselves with influence us – our memories, the things we read and think about and look at every single day. I will be keeping this in mind as I select new pictures to hang on the walls, new things to fill our home. It’s a complete clean slate. Maybe this was really necessary in order for even greater things to come.

      That is such a perfect quote for today. I absolutely know that there is a lesson in all this, something that will change me for the better. I’m not sure exactly what that is yet, but I am searching for it and I know it will come. Of course, I am so glad that this happened to our stuff and not to Nick or me. I’m also really glad that we caught the mold. If that inspector hadn’t come right when he did, a lot of moldy things would have been brought into our house for who knows how long. And you and I both know how awfully sick mold can make you get from working in that awful building.

      Thanks so much for your amazing support!

      I hope that once we get some furniture you can come visit!

  5. Amanda says:

    I too would say scrapbooks is what I would save in a fire. But I’ve often thought about that too… if a tornado were to come and destroy my house (which could definitely happen in Oklahoma!) it’s all just stuff. And yet, it’s stuff I spent years collecting and things that mean a lot to me. Not the electronics but the papers and books and scrapbooks, etc. I am so sorry this happened, and don’t feel bad about feeling bad about those sorts of things getting ruined. Did your scrapbooks make it unscathed? Because those I have spent HOURS on and would be so sad if they were ruined.

    • Carolann says:

      I really appreciate that, Amanda. I feel a bit shallow complaining about losing books. But they really did mean a lot to me. They were my childhood and my college experience and my inspiration. Because we move around so much, I love to look around our apartment and see things that we have collected from all of the different places we have lived. It makes me feel like a part of each place we live is always with me.

      You and I both watch what we spend our money on. I think when you don’t buy a lot of things, the things you do have matter because you have carefully selected them.

      By grace, our scrapbooks survived. And really, that is all that matters to me. Because the album covers are corduroy, the experts who went through our stuff just advised us to get new albums and page protectors, just in case any mold spores got on them. I am so relieved and thankful that my most precious memories remain okay!

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