The lid of the old plastic storage tub is difficult to pry off. A decade in storage has warped the plastic, wrapping it tighter around its burden of memories. A tug, a twist and it pulls free.
Saudi white musk. I remember a nine-year old Mujaahid, his face wreathed in smiles the first time a brother gifted him with a tiny vial of this precious fragrance. From then on it was his favorite, used sparingly to make it last. As I breathe in the essence of a child lost, I know this container must be Mujaahid’s. Sad, but curious as to those things he felt were important enough to store before our journey to Yemen over ten years ago.
A Hot Wheel delivery truck, with “Cheetos” across the side, worn from years of small fingers holding it, just there, as a little boy raced it across his sleeping grandfather’s back. A plane, a small purple VW Bug that was always “Ummi’s car.” A notebook, written by a five-year old boy.
“My little sister climbed the steps today.”
“We went to Aunt Shaakira’s and ate popcorn and macaroni and cheese.”
And later, in the voice of a nine year old, a talk he’d written and given at an Islamic conference, and names for bows he would like to sell:
“Sa’d Ibn Abi Waqqas Bow for Boys”
“Nusaybah Bow for Girls”
And rules and reminders for his first bow hunting season.
At the bottom, a scrapbook. I open it and see Morning Glories. A book of photos of my sister Patty’s little house and studio in the woods, with her careful descriptions written years ago. Her voice, now stilled, comes to life again as I turn the pages and remember.
“This is the door to my studio. I can sit here and watch the birds for hours.”
“This is our swing, covered in snow. Of course, we don’t use it when it is like this.”
Patty never had children, but she loved me and mine with a sweet and deep love that we never had cause to doubt.
A week of memories, of tears and reminders of a past almost forgotten in the fullness of each day. A hand painted milk jug and three matching hearts on ribbons, a final gift from my sister that last summer before we parted for good. Books on homesteading and raising goats, and my soap molds made by Patty’s husband Sully. Afghans crocheted by my grandmother’s hands, quilts I pieced lovingly for my two oldest children, all gone, chewed through and ruined by mice and bad storage conditions.
The afghans and quilts thrown away, the Cheetos truck carefully placed aside to send to the man who once lived in that little boy body, a pitcher on a window to remind me to watch the Morning Glories every day they bloom.
Gratitude, sadness, and prayer. A house filled with the shadows of what was, looking forward to whatever may be.
“Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you deny?” (Surah ar-Rahman)
Khadijah is a writer, student, teacher, translator and herbalist. She currently lives in Kansas City, MO, homeschooling her eight children while working on all of her various projects and planning her next move to a homestead in New Mexico.