I think of pith-helmeted archaeologists cracking open Egyptian sarcophagi. When these boxes were sealed, it was a very different world. There's a small shock when I lift back the cardboard flaps. I inhale, as if breathing in the air I exhaled four and a half months ago could take me back. I remember packing this, but it was a different me - with a round living belly between me and the cardboard.
These are the things from my half of the laundry back at our old house in Sydney - my little make-shift office which always smelt of laundry powder and had its own toilet. I was in a hurry packing - I'd thrown in personal things with work files and books - a small stuffed lion that El Prima gave me years ago, pictures by Snazzy, hotwater bottles that really belonged to the laundry side of the room. Each object I lift out needs an explanation. Oh Lion. Something awful happened. It isn't what we expected. Not at all.
* * *
El Prima's been unpacking at home while I've been at work. Suddenly there are new spaces in our bedroom, more room to move. In the living room is something that wasn't there before. It is a small whiteboard - an IT freebie. I remember when El Prima brought it home - to that other living room in Sydney, in that other life.
It was July. I was newly pregnant and a friend of ours asked us to contribute a photo for an anti-homophobia project she was running. I tried out different messages until I came up with this one: El Prima did the text, and I added a picture.
I had my photo taken for my staff card today, and my face didn't look like that. No glow. And too much knowledge and weariness.
That same whiteboard in in my hands again, but it's got a different message on it now. I wrote this message about a month after the other one. One of El Prima's daughters was dealing with something unspeakably hard. I wished I knew a way to make things better. I came across this quote and wrote it on the whiteboard for her.
Everyone is broken by life but some of us are stronger in the broken places. (Ernest Hemmingway)
I read once that the Hagia Sophia dome in Instanbul is completely broken into hundreds of pieces, but is held together by its mosaic tiles, like a cracked eggshell. Apparently the brokenness is the only reason that it has survived various earthquakes over 1500 years.
Please let me be like that - stronger for my brokenness.