Millions of Little Pieces

The minutia.

That’s what I see when I look around. Patches and key chains and mementos and freebie notepads for politicians I’ve never heard of. Cups without saucers and black and white photos of people from a bygone era. Chipped knick-knacks and old receipts. Notebooks with lists and numbers and lines of potential. Life. Stories. In millions of little pieces.

It’s like a pause button got pressed and she stopped right where she was. There is no definitive beginning, no end, just suspension. Crackers on the counter and eggshells in the container and glasses in the sink. Shopping bags. Shoes by the door. Mundane details. In millions of little pieces.

Everywhere I look I see my own history. Don’t run in front of the China cabinet. Who has the transistor radio box? Be careful around the mantle! Even the way the door opens into the dining room, how I expect certain people to be sitting in certain places, how they aren’t there anymore, are part of my identity. My fingerprints. My life. My stories. In millions of little pieces.

There’s so much to absorb. So many nooks and crannies with treasures and junk and relics of the past. Packaging for products that don’t exist anymore. Advertisements and newspaper clippings and magazines. It smells like another time, another place. I cradle books from a time I can’t even imagine, gifts to my grandparents from their parents. I see my dad there as a child, my parents on their first date. I want to assign meaning to everything, but I don’t know what it means to her. Where did these things come from? Why did she keep them? Stories of her parents and his parents and their parents. Decades. Centuries. In millions of little pieces.

I didn’t know all those pieces. Some I wasn’t allowed to see. Some were buried deep and put in boxes and left for years. Some I didn’t let myself see. Feel. Touch. Experience. Guilt comes to rest in my chest. Why didn’t I know? Why now? I trace my fingers over textures of someone else’s life. All their realness, their incompleteness. Love. Joy. Heartbreak. Pain. Triumph. In millions of little pieces.

My memories jerk my senses to the surface. Light filters in, soft and warm in the ancient glow of bubble lights. Smoke and ashes and the wet smell of the garage. A train roars across the overpass and rattles the wall hangings. Jokes float in the air, so corny they end with a groan, like, “Why can’t you use a piece of paper while doing a report? Because it’s tearable!” Words. Laughter. Tears. Us. In millions of little pieces.

No one standing from the outside looking in will know these pieces. They’ll see a building with white siding and Jack-in-the-Pulpits growing by the door and the overgrown place where there used to be a turnaround. They’ll see cars in the drive, then nothing. A lamp in the window, but no one is home. But every place has a story. The people who made it and the things they’ve collected along the way. In millions of little pieces.

I see the epilogue of this journey. Those millions of little pieces will spread to other homes to become part of someone else’s fabric. On and on. Forever. And maybe that brings me hope and comfort. Maybe that’s the real story.

We are all millions of little pieces.

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