I have never been able to keep stuff.
And, I love stuff.
Every time I start to accumulate possessions, something dramatic happens.
It started in my teens the first time I left home to travel abroad. I was an exchange student for a year in the Netherlands, and while I was gone, I packed all of my belongings into a closet and my mom rented out my bedroom to an industrious med student. Before I returned home, the foundation of the house cracked in the night, and the porch fell off its beams and crushed my stuff.
It happened again in college. I left my stuff in a friend’s basement. Their basement filled with water after an Oregon storm, but strangely, only the corner with all of my boxes flooded. Another time, I drove across Eugene with a pre-assembled pressboard desk in the back of my pick-up. The light turned red, and as I pressed the brake, the desk flipped into traffic and splintered on the pavement. It got so that friends started making excuses not to house my boxes between semesters because of the strange events that would destroy my belongings, and simultaneously, theirs.
Eventually, I found myself in my late twenties calling my mom from the North Island of New Zealand after my backpack, my passport, and my money belt had been stolen and I was left with only a toothbrush, the clothes I was wearing, and a credit card. “Apparently,” she said, without an element of surprise at my predicament, “not only are you supposed to wander the world, but you are supposed to do it naked and walking, as well.”
And, so, I've spent decades wandering.
And, decades trying to collect stuff.
After leading groups of teenagers and adults around the world for 18 years, I now have a house that looks like a market in a developing country. My walls glitter with masks from Africa, my shelves are crammed with Thai headdresses and Nepali dolls, and my closets are filled with traditional Peruvian sweaters and woven scarves from Mozambique.
I finally have stuff.
And Legos. Did I mention the Legos?
During this semi-nomadic journey, I managed to have two beautiful sons. And despite the chaos of babies and diapers and strollers and STUFF – I still have wanted them to go to the other side of the world. To cross international borders.
Because, the real “stuff” that I've managed to accumulate in the past decade has been more than material. I've collected a marriage, a business, a family, and a community. And, since I’m still apparently not supposed to have any stuff, some of that has crumbled right now, as well.
And, again, I find myself without much stuff.
And, as hard as it is to be without stuff again, I've found that being without stuff seems to be when the world reminds me of what really matters.
And, what really matters right now are eight and six years old. And they are my world.
So, I want to show them mine.
Thailand. Six weeks. One mom. Two boys. One duffle bag. Maybe we’ll get some stuff.