No longer living with my parents, I’m surprised that I haven’t yet moved past the concept of having “a room.” In my entire rented suite, only my room seems suited to holding my mass collection of life-relics. It’s surrounded by countless items that only mean something when I tell stories about them. And I tell these stories to myself.
Four years ago, in a construction yard in east Maple Ridge, I found a license plate that expired in 1978. It now leans on my wall.
I used to walk my golden retriever around that huge construction yard. Her name was Buffy, and she had fear issues. You couldn’t get close to her if she was chewing anything, or she claimed a spot to lie in. She would growl and snap at us in a way that looked like aggression, but it would be better described as fear. She was taken away from her mother too early, and seemed to live in fear of anything being taken from her. She bit my foot hard once when I was 12, and it bled from two dark red punctures.
We walked in the construction yard because the exercise would make her sleep. We also walked in the construction yard because it made me feel like I was in a novel. It seemed like the place to reflect. Buffy and I would sit on the highest hill, we would breathe in dust and cedar needles, and I would look on the hill out at the blue-grey tops of buildings, trying to guess which city was which.
My dog Buffy and I would sit on the highest hill, and we would breathe in the dust and cedar needles.
Now, the license plate is a relic of Maple Ridge for me, the place that I loved as a kid, and that was like wet sand to get out of every morning as an adult. The license plate is also a relic of Buffy, the dog that our family told ourselves we could love enough to fix if we just kept her longer, if we just walked her more, or if we just got along better ourselves. It took us seven years to decide that she wasn’t right for us, and to give her to a shelter that found a family that would be right for her.
I and my whole family still feel guilty about Buffy. We’re guilty because we kept her for so long, and we’re guilty because we gave her away so soon.
I’m in a similar situation with the things in my room. If I give my old guitar away, if I erase pictures on a whiteboard, if I take down the pamphlets from the temple I visited, I’ll lose the past, and those points from which to grow. I’ll forget the calm of holding the ancient license plate, of walking home from high school dancing to Defiance, Ohio on CD, or how I used to keep an emergency kit with me everywhere. I can’t forget the few weeks in my young adult life that felt hopeless, and the drive I found to carry on despite them.
Every time I revisit the past, it’s hazier. I used to give out books and expect them back. Now I make a conscious effort to do so without that expectation. I love the idea of passing on a story that made me happy without memorizing it, and seeing if it’s important enough that I’ll remember it.
I would love to tell you to give away your own relics, and I would to tell you that I planted my license plate in another construction yard somewhere, and that I hope it ends on someone else’s wall.
But it’s still in my room, and I’m not ready to let it go.