Day Sixteen: Third Time’s the Charm

Today’s Prompt: Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.

This is part 3 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. This is fiction.

A smattering of buds covered the tree in my garden; the lovely pink blossoms swayed to and fro in the breeze. I had recently got over the end of a relationship and started to rebuild my life with my children, who had been wonderful to me throughout the winter months. During that time, I had found a part of myself that I had lost whilst in my relationship: a connection with my children and, furthermore, the ability to be happy on my own.

It was halfway through that spring, once the garden had started to come back to life, that I decided to sort through my old belongings. The things that I had shoved unceremoniously in the loft after my relationship had broken down; old items left to me by deceased family members that I had not had any place for; toys belonging to my children that I hoped they would one day pass onto theirs. I rummaged through piles of boxes almost as tall as myself, looking only to throw out anything that might bring back memories of a time when I was not myself.

Somewhere in the process of sorting and discarding, I found a photograph covered in a layer of dust. It came off under my fingers to reveal the bright, shining face of a much younger me, her hair tied back in the delightful pigtails I wore in my youth. Between her teeth were a set of enormous braces, almost too big for her face. I took it downstairs and put it on the mantelpiece, where a variety of others soon joined it. A selection of family members stared at me across the room, each of them sporting the same grin, a family trait with which I had been previously unfamiliar.

At first, I was unsure why I had bothered to bring them out of the loft. Most of the things that I had rummaged through had been discarded, especially anything that had reminded me of my ex. There was something comforting about seeing old photos of family members sitting in the room, although what it was I could not put my finger on. My children were eager to learn about all of the people in the pictures, some of whom I did not even know very well.

I knew stories about some of my grandparents and what they had done during the war, although I had long since believed parts of them were fabricated. The children listened to them as though there was nothing more fascinating, then went off to tell their friends of the bravery of their great grandparents.

The trees became greener; spring turned into summer, and the realisation dawned on me one weekend as I sat in the garden enjoying the warm weather. There, in my house, sat a row of photographs of happy family members, most of whom had lived and since passed on, and in their time on the planet they had achieved great things. They had lived and died, loved and lost, and sought and found. Just as I had suffered, they had suffered too.

And that is when I learnt a personal lesson that I hope my children will one day learn, too. It is not something that anyone can understand before they fully accept it. In this life, we all have our ups and downs. We win and we lose, but amidst the loss there is always something more to be found. Before me, people have had to pick themselves up off the floor, and after I’m gone the next generation will have to do the same.

Whatever happens, we will find a way. However down we are, no misery will last forever. Even when we are at our most vulnerable, when we feel as though we have lost everything, in time we will find ourselves again.

My mother did, as did her mother. My father did, and his father, too. And my mother’s father; and my father’s mother, and so on.

That was a year of changes in my life. From then on, I have lived it only for me.


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