A bag is defined as 1) a container material with an opening at the top, used for carrying things, 2) an assortment or collection especially of nonmaterial things.
My bare arms and legs were exposed in my shorts and t-shirt on the cold tiled floor as I lay grasping at the last moment of the coolness from the shadowed floor. The hard coffee-colored tile of the landing was a comfort to the increasingly warm spring morning on the island. As I lay on the floor I am lost in my thoughts of the morning at the park. Across the street was an escape from the chores of having to clean my room or do the dishes, we could fly on the magic carpet of the swing set, climb the Grand Canyon of the monkey bars, or slip on the glaciers of the slide never actually having experienced the moment of being in these places I could however, imagine them from the stories my parents brought home from their trips. A vast open space that was the Kapolei community center which was locked and never seemed to be used. A large cream colored building at the center stained from the red dirt that lay on the ground full of oxidized iron the dirt on the island always painted my clothes never seeming to escape the small ridges of the textured pants and shirts. Directly behind the building was a large open space with two baseball fields. Surrounding them were fences turned orange from the weathering of the natural world. I seemed to always find myself running my hands along them feeling the textured ridges sharp in some places and crumbles in others. The fence always turned my fingers orange I simply looked at them and proceed to wipe my already painted shorts. My vision took me towards the left of the open space to a basketball court where my brothers played a game of ‘horse’ another fence on the far side separated the court from the neighborhood. Tall grasses grew along the side of the fence hiding small homes from the kittens left behind. The park became a home for the stray kittens that no longer had a home to stay. As I walked the fence I could hear the rustling in the grass as the kittens shutter at the sound of my feet trampling around. As I sit and reflect on the moment spent at the park early that morning I am quickly interrupted by the placement of a large green bag.
Green canvas placed by the door, to the touch it felt rough under the grooves of my fingers similar to that of the green lizards that lived in the hibiscus bushes along the front yard. My fingers tremble as I move from one end to the other. Three straps symmetrically placed in the center to stabilize the weight of the supplies. My heart raced with the anticipation of what was coming. I looked at the bag with disdain, I looked at the bag awaiting the news. As I watched the bag from across the landing I thought to myself who was leaving? How long would they be gone? Where were they going? The questions of uncertainty were always left unanswered, I sat across the landing anxious to know.
The last time it was Dad, in one moment he was here and the next he was carrying a green canvas out the door. I watched as he placed the bag in his red GMC Jimmy one last hug goodbye tears welled up in my eyes, but I didn’t let them drop. I held myself sturdy with an understanding of the duty at hand. Outwardly I was strong and rooted with the responsibility to help with the care of the animals, house chores, and homework. Inwardly I was lost in the sense that a part of me was leaving and I was hopeless to stop it. A limb was being severed and it was something I had to live without unknowing as to why I couldn’t live with it in that moment. With every goodbye it was continuously ripped from the socket. I learned how to live without it, I learned to not need it, I learned to use the other limbs that remained. I realized later that it wasn’t learning to live without the limb that was the challenge, it was learning to reattach the limb afterward. As I watched the red jimmy disappear down Makakilo hill I was angered, I stood in the driveway a moment too long. Barefoot, the cement cooked my little toes as though it was a piece of spam sizzling in a frying pan.
A loud noise from the deck interrupted my thoughts, I redirected my vision to provide myself a sense of what was occurring. Lady, the auburn haired golden retriever had knocked in to the white glass top table spilling a plastic cup of water. I watched as gravity pulled the water from the table to the ground, each drip rhythmically initiated a small tapping, a result from the the initial crash. The coffee-colored tile was beginning to warm with the rising temperatures, maneuvering onto my knees and elbows to a standing position I step down the cream-colored carpeted steps a comfort to my already callused feet. I walked to the deck and collected the empty cup, I am welcomed by the gentle leeward breeze. It picked up my hair and twisted it in place as though the strands close together danced to a slow melodic song. I took in a deep breath of air with a hint of added salt from the evaporated water of the Pacific Ocean. Linear streams of clouds decorate the periwinkle-colored sky as though it was celebrating a birthday with streamers, however to me they were just a reminder of what was coming.
The afternoon approached quickly and the green canvas bag remained at the door, the vertical brown door etched with abstract designs that was my parents room, remained closed. The sound of animal planet bled from the tv, my brothers sat and watched as my attention lingered to and from the green bag. At a distance I noticed black ink printed in to the design of the bag, if I could get that much closer I’d know who was leaving I thought to myself. On my hands and knees I crawled back up the stairs like a cat stalking their pray, I made it to the top of the coffee-colored tile once more and suddenly the dark brown abstract door opened I gasped in seized shock, I finally had my answer.
Fresh polish stained my nose from the glassy black boots that met my face on the coffee-colored tile. Black laces to match perfectly tied so the eyelets matched symmetrically on either side. A hint of smooth black socks sat comfortably in the shoes although I couldn’t see I thought what an immaculate sight of perfection in just a pair of boots. My eyes reluctant to look up found my curiosity pulling them like magnets in a upward direction. The boots hugged the ankles and the pants were folded pastry-like seams and placed directly to either side. The blue camo-like design digitally placed on the clothing material in a combination of colors ranging from sky blue, dark teal, and navy blue. As my eyes made their way up so did my stance as I found myself standing eye level to the insignia that would render my inquisitive investigation of that bag. An open winged eagle at the top, and three arrow-like stripes gracing the bottom. This time it was Mom.
“Your father and I have something to tell you and your brothers” she spoke and I let my eyes meet her gaze briefly before looking away and simply saying “okay.” My feet felt like a cast iron pan as each toppled down the steps into the living room where my brothers choices of entertainment meshed into the colorful world of cartoon characters. The immaculate polished boots followed down the cream-colored carpet in a more purposeful direct action. The colorful cartoons radiating off the television quickly evaporated in to a black and white still picture as we were placed on the mint green striped white couch in birth order. She stood as though she was at attention admiring her three children, I suppose in that moment she was taking a last look at the curious faces we held just before revealing the “big” secret that we all knew anyways. She knelt to the cream-colored carpet humbly expressing her empathetic explanation of the disappearing act she was about to make in our life. She appeared soft to the hard exterior of the uniform she was wearing. She spoke in a singular tone direct, serious, and heart-felt, although I stopped listening my eyes wondered out the sliding glass door to the wonders of the backyard. She spoke about the responsibilities around the house, as well as the homework we would have to finish, wearing our uniforms to school, and cleaning our rooms. She spoke directly at us and told us to behave for our father and I couldn’t help but release a quick mischievous grin, but it was gone quicker then it appeared. As she finished her well thought out guidelines no one said anything, we simply sat awaiting the moment she would walk out the door. My words were not found, but my face could have said it for me a silent morose attitude as I sat in the middle of my two brothers. If my face could talk for me it would have said something in anger with an undertone of sarcasm and disappointment. This was not helpful so it’s a good thing my face can’t talk, I stayed silent with the look of annoyance and resentment. I only saw things from my perspective, a daughter being left with my brothers and dad, who would be able to nurture my sensitivities from a hard day at school, or drive us to the beach while singing “truly, madly, deeply,” who would cook us dinner or activate our imaginations with stories? I suppose it wouldn’t be easy for her either, but she was always so strong she never cried, she let go so well, she seemed to ignore the fact that she would be away from ‘us’ for one hundred eighty three days. The conversation ended and the questions I was thinking dissolved, I could never ask her, maybe she was hurting too?
One last meal, an early dinner of ‘Panda Express’ the milk-stained brown table was covered in placemats and every piece of flatware that anyone person could possibly use. Paper towels for napkins and plastic cups full of water to the addition of the green, orange, and yellow of the beef broccoli, orange chicken, and lo mein. Very little words were exchanged in that moment we all ate in silence, the plates were cleared in a team-like fashion as to show my mom we were all capable of being the children we needed to be when she was gone.
The green canvas bag, was finally lifted in one swoop, as though there was nothing in it, like a feather that was simply misplaced. However, the green canvas bag held more, it was the lingering reminder that replaced my parents with a lonely emptiness engulfing the house in their absences…
Bags are good to hold a collection of non material things, however, bags can also collect moments in life. In our minds we compartmentalize bags based on memories we’ve held on to, memories that mean something to us. These memories can be both positive and negative and like all bags they need cleaning and organizing. It can be hard sometimes to let go of the bags of “stuff” we collected because they are part of our stories, without the bags we may be a completely different person. It is okay to let go of the bags, bags are specialized in all kinds of shapes and sizes what bag we used as a kid no longer useful to the bags we now use as adults. The green canvas sea bag rough under the ridges of my fingers is one bag I’ve been trying to clean myself. We cannot forget to exchange the bag for one that will be more useful and in the process reorganize the material inside them as well.
The bags you carry don’t need to be baggage…