Three Small Things

Posted · 23 Comments

Originally written in May, 2011…re-posting.

A small brush fire near my home last night brought a trooper to my door saying to prepare for the worst…the wind was taking it our direction…be ready to leave without warning.  Warning. Wasn’t that what he just gave us?

I went back into the house and gathered the children.  “Pack your school backpack with some good clothes,” I told them.  “And three small things that are important to you.”

Three small things.  It seemed like a good number.  Then I Facebooked what was happening…because what else would I do?

I went to my bedroom closet and pulled out two tubs of photographs.  I grabbed my childhood teddy bear from my headboard and stuffed him in the box.  I loaded my laptop, my camera, my hard drive and my photos into the truck. Done.  I went to check on the kids.

Anthony was in his room carefully scanning his things.  He’d loaded a shoe box of special books, his drawing notebook, and three dirty socks.  He then shoved his six dollars into his pocket.  He left behind the tattered stack of photos of his birth family that had been lying next to the money.  Interesting.

The two small boys, who’ve only been here since February, were carefully watching the commotion.  They’d each put one pair of jeans and a shirt in their bag and waited by the door.  That’s it.  That is all they wanted.  Kids who shuffle through the system don’t attach to anyone…or anything.  Everything they’d ever needed was standing next to them, holding a matching Spiderman backpack.

I stood on the back deck.  Our normally silent neighborhood was filled with sirens, helicopters, spotter planes circling overhead.   The road that passes our house, usually used once a day by one neighbor checking on his horses, was a superhighway of curious onlookers…checking what was happening…seeing how much time they had to find their three small things.

Text messages came in from people on scene. Someone had fired up a dozer and was building a dirt wall around a friend’s home.  Firefighters from 50 miles away were on scene along with our local volunteers, fighting to save their neighbors’ homes.  Within minutes of the first sign of smoke help flooded in from all over. Miracle workers…ordinary people…risking their lives for us.

Billy emerged from the shop where he’d scanned the tools, deciding what daddy would want…since he was helplessly at work, waiting to hear news.  He and I loaded our best four-wheeler into the back of the truck, glanced at all the snow machines, the off-road projects, the plow truck, the 1200 square feet of wall to wall tools, the years of compilation…and then looked away.  Nothing we could do.

Robin leaned against the rail of the deck, watching the commotion.  She’d put Mya’s hamster in the truck, since Mya wasn’t home, and had her history book in hand…ready to throw it to the flames.

“That’s the great thing about being adopted,” she said in her sarcastic way.  “No childhood memories to pack up.  I’m ready to go.”

Destini came from her bedroom with a duffle bag, her purse, and Patch, her stuffed Dalmatian.

“That’s all you’re taking?” I asked.

“It was weird,” she said.  “I stood there in my full room, looking around at my clothes, all the collectibles, the things I’d had forever…and suddenly none of it really mattered.”

None of it really mattered.

When it came down to it…when we thought we may have just minutes to gather our most important things…each one of us on our own had made the split second decision to leave it all behind.

I’d packed my photos and the computer that held my photos and didn’t even consider anything else.  Destini had left behind 17 years worth of living and carried a favorite stuffed dog.  Billy had brought nothing of his own…but tried to salvage things for daddy.  Robin had pondered the bright side of having no memories to gather, and thought only of the pets.  Anthony had abandoned his birth family photos in favor of six bucks.  And two boys who’d never had anything to begin with walked away without even flinching…like they’d done so many times before.

And now I sit here in all my clutter of crap and wonder why we spend our lives accumulating things that in the end….never even mattered at all.

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23 Responses to "Three Small Things"
  1. Kendrajwade says:

    Tears rolling down my face while reading your blog again, thanks 😛 I needed a good cry today  <3

  2. Wren says:

    This made me cry- your understanding of the inner-workings of your kids is so wonderful. I hope you are all doing well. Thanks for a great read!

  3. Deon Bucher says:

    I love this story. Brought tears to my eyes. And Destini, that Dalmation. I love it. And it is so true that none of it matters in the end. Yet we all continue to save up all these “memories”. And what for? Just to pass them on to our kids and their kids and so on, so they can have a bunch of stuff that eventually they dont even know what was for or where it came from. Something to think about.

  4. Leah says:

    I’ve been blessed that I haven’t had to make that decision… yet. 

  5. Meg says:

    I cried the first time I read this back in May. Cried again today. Its so beautiful. My favourite line is still “Billy had brought nothing of his own…but tried to salvage things for daddy”. 

  6. Ercameron says:

    oh, what we learn with experiences through life. When it comes right down to it, none of it really matters. My motto through life has been ” we,re all living so everything,s ok” and the older I get, the more I believe it. I,ve raised 8 children and they are not materalistic. God will supply all your needs if you depend on Him.

  7. CarolynC says:

    Wow… just wow…

  8. Sidney's Momma says:

    I have read this a couple of time and each time, I still think it is so wonderfully written! Thanks for sharing your life with all of us

  9. Vitamin Fox says:

    This story just made my eyes well up and leak a bit. Thanks for reposting it since I must have missed it’s original posting.

  10. Chiweenie Mom says:

    December 2008 and January 2009, we had to get rid of almost everything we owned to downsize.  We were almost out on the street.  Friends let us move in with them.  The economy combined with a backstabbing business partner took a harsh toll on our family.  We did not have Christmas presents that year.  The kids said it was the best Christmas they had ever had!  Selling or giving away all out things felt greater than I had ever imagined!  It’s nice to have “Stuff,” but we don’t really need it.  No one will totally understand that until it happens to them.  It’s amazing how attatched we think we are to all our crap!  LOL!

  11. Shirley Braun says:

    I’m glad you reposted.  That was beautiful.

  12. Diana says:

    I’m new to your blog and so glad I found it.  I have one bio and two adopted children myself. The perspectives you share are amazing.  Looking forward to getting to “know” you better.

  13. L.Trout says:

    During this crazy time of shoppers in a Christmas buying frenzy; your story brings to mind the REAL meaning of the season! You and your husband have done an amazing job of teaching your kids what’s truly important — this story definitely proves that. I hope you and your neighbors are all safe.

  14. I understand completely. After getting divorced and having to downsize from a 3000sf home to a 900sf apartment, you really learn what’s important. The most important thing I got to keep was my daughter. 😀

  15. The Atomic Mom says:

    This post really resonated with  me.  We evacuated our house here in New Mexico this summer due to forest fire and were away for a week.  I started out the year with the goal in mind to not be so attached to stuff, but when we left, we still drove away with our cars packed to the top.  Having to stand in my house, with all of my “things” really did make me have to choose…what is most important here — photos, wedding dress, insurance papers, computer.  It does make you think when you have 30 mins to leave your home behind and don’t know if you’re coming back.

  16. I have evacuated many times (hurricanes – South Louisiana), and each time I take a little less.  Because if I can count the right number of heads, I have EVERYTHING that matters. It took me decades to learn that lesson. Your children already know it. 🙂

  17. Rbolewski says:

    Beautiful. You gave me a lot to think about today.

  18. Guen says:

    I had a moment like that years ago.  When I had about one hour to pack what was important, get in the car and leave my husband forever.  And when it came down to it probably the most important thing to pack had been the cookie jar, because it kept my 2 year old occupied and happy in the back seat of the car during rush hour traffic that snowy January night.

  19. Mocha Berry says:

    Brilliant.  Thanks for sharing this perspective…just what I’ve been pondering lately.

  20. Dporter1002 says:

    Touching story……what great kids they are. 
     We talk of making similar decisions as we live in a valley surrounded by earthquake faults.  We are in the circle of fire as is Alaska. Fascinating. 

  21. Beth Haynes Butler says:

    I liked it all, as usual.  But the most moving bit to me was Billy trying to save his Daddy’s stuff.  What a young man, how proud you must be.

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