We are cleaning out the attic. It is beautiful outside, hardly the kind of day in which anyone would want to tackle a spider-webbed, over-stuffed-with-boxes, hot and dark place such as this. Still, when it’s time, it’s time… so here we are.
“What do you want to do with this?” we ask each other as box after box is opened. Sometimes the answer is easy, and the entire box goes on the ‘give away’ pile. Other times, we sift through items we have long forgotten and debate whether to keep, give away, or send to the land fill. Clothes of fashion long out of date, mismatched glasses, incomplete sets of dishes, and here… look, a shoe box filled with little baby shoes and teething rings that are at least forty five years old.
Was it long ago
That they wore these tiny shoes
And the world was new?
What does one do with treasures that were collected so lovingly? What should be done with the whale which small fingers once carved out of soap and this little handprint in plaster? And what of the souvenirs we collected in a dozen different countries? It is hard to part with even one of these away for they bring back memories of a day spent strolling through an exotic bazaar in Jaffa or the night when we walked through Disney’s Magic Kingdom and saw fireworks burst against the stars.
“Even if we get rid of this stuff we will still have the memories,” my practical husband says.
I don’t answer him because I am still rummaging through the shoe-box and have come up with a little water globe. It is dark blue, and when I shake it, it sparkles as if lit by starlight. It reminds me of space.
I sit on my heels and watch the twinkle of make-believe stars and think of a program on the Science Channel where experts spoke of a ship that would someday sail the universe. It’s not a new concept—powering a spaceship with solar energy has been around since the 17th century courtesy of visionary astronomer Johannes Kepler and Russian space pioneer Friederich Tsander —but only in this age of technology will NASA actually send a spacecraft propelled by sunlight into space. The hope is that it will orbit the earth.
And the coming years will bring more marvels. Great sails of the lightest material known to man will one day billow into a great sail. Attached to a space ship, that sail will propel its vessel through the uncharted seas of space using the push of ions and the energy of starlight! It’s amazing. It’s science fiction stuff. And how I wish I could sail on that ship of stars to embark on voyages that Columbus never dreamed of.
Looking at the stars
Wondering what worlds there be
That I’ll never know.
But here’s the rub– when those pioneers of the future set sail, what will they take with them to remind them of Earth? What can they keep, what will they need to leave behind? They’ll take practical things, of course, and some far-in-the-future cousin of kindle, and some holograms and images… but would there be room for a whale carved out of soap? A handprint set in plaster?
I cradle the little whale, trace the fingers of the small, plaster hand. Memories are the real starships, for they take us swiftly and surely to days long gone. Bathed in their gentle radiance, we can close our eyes at any time and relive a wondrous day or speak with a person we loved or hold a small hand now grown large and strong.
Before getting back to work, I slip the star globe back into the shoe box and place the box carefully back on the shelf.
Sorting through treasures
in a hot, dusty attic
full of memories.