Let me tell you all something:  I’ve been having lots of visitors lately, and none of them have been wearing masks…

NO!  I’m not throwing caution to the wind, and having 500-person house parties, but I HAVE been clearing out forgotten drawers, and helping our good friend go through things as he prepares to move- and the visitors are in the forms of photos, costumes, signatures on birthday cards, and little left behind mementos, as well as sightings, phrases and thoughts- and they have evoked ALL THE FEELS.  ALL OF THEM.

I have laughed, gotten angry and cried my eyes out- and sometimes in the span of an hour.  When you start to go through things that you haven’t really thought about in a while, the feelings and memories associated with those things come right back up, just like they were fresh- and although it’s amazing that an object can trigger feelings, it also makes me realize:

 The objects we find when cleaning out drawers, closets or whatever place we’re cleaning can trigger feelings, BUT they’re just objects, not the feelings or person who we associate with them.   I mention this first, because I think it’s the most important.  I have gotten rid of things in the past few years that have been in our house for a LONG time- we’re talking stuff that my grandparents left in closets, in the basement, etc.- because I was afraid.  Afraid of what?  Honestly, I think I was a little afraid of losing the memories of my grandparents.  And I bet they kept stuff for the same reason.  Of course, I’m not a total heartless person- I keep some things around, because it makes me feel good to see them as a physical reminder of past moments, but for the most part, letting go of bigger stuff has been freeing.  I know our friend will kill me for writing this, but it’s been tough going through things with him, both for himself and for the theater group we oversee for the same reasons.  Parting with things that we worked on for so long, and that we were so proud of, or worked so hard to get, but may not be of any use now is a tough job!  But the reality of the present is a very real thing, and sometimes in order to thrive in the now, and in order to move forward, we need to let go of things, even if they were such an important part of our past.  Seeing the objects and feeling the emotions made me realize that the memories of relatives that are no longer here, and shows (musicals, dramas, cabarets, etc.) that were a wonderful part of the past, etc.  all live inside my mind and in my heart.  They don’t need to take up space in my house, or in anyone’s house to mean something.  But what will we pass on to those who go after us?  Well- the memory of how we made them feel when we fitted a costume just for them.  The feeling of accomplishment that they get when they were motivated to work towards something, after watching us be proud of our work.   The freedom to hold us in their hearts, the way they watched us hold our loved ones in our hearts, rather than their stuff in our homes. 

Now, let’s get to visitors in various forms…

Lately, tons of visits from past friends and loved ones have been coming through, and I have been loving them!  Sometimes, they’ve saved my day, because I’d be having a really bad day, and then suddenly:  a visit to let me know everything’s going to be alright. 

Signs of visits for me are:  butterflies (grandmothers, and son), dragonflies (grandfather), finding pennies in random places (grandparents), certain songs that come on when you’re least expecting it and sometimes a phrase coming out of my mouth that I wouldn’t usually say (all of the above). 

Last week, I decided to clean out the “junk drawer”.  We all have one- that drawer where we just shove random things in to get them out of the way.  So, I take the drawer out and sit on the living room floor going through the contents, when various friends and relatives decided to visit…

First, it was a tenth anniversary card from a member of a group we were in, who is no longer with us (Anthony & I are celebrating our twentieth anniversary this October).  WOW!  I hadn’t even thought of that woman much lately but there she was in my living room at that moment.  It made me remember what a strong, feisty woman she was, and how much I admired her.  Then, a birthday card from three years ago from our good friend’s mom, who passed at the beginning of this year.  She would sign her cards with a signature smiley face- and this one was super special, because she was 101 when she drew it, and had become very selective of whom she used her energy on to draw the smiley face.  That made me a little teary-eyed, because it made me remember how wonderful she was, and how loving and selfless she had been during her life.  Deeper in the pile of drawer contents came a small fabric Italian flag.  That was my mother-in-law’s.  I forgot why we had it (maybe for one of our daughter’s school projects), but there she was, saying “Hello.”  She just passed this May, so the loss is pretty new, so there I was with more tears in my eyes, as right after that, I came across a photo of her with our daughter and me, at a wedding, probably ten years ago.  Not only was I seeing my mother-in-law younger and healthy, but there I was, younger, and our daughter- so little!  I should have taken a box of tissues with me to clean out this drawer…

So, I finally made it to the bottom of the drawer, and what awaited me was the motherload of memory:  A drawing of Raggedy Ann and Andy that my grandmother drew when I was an infant.  The drawing of Andy was damaged, so I let it go, but Raggedy Ann was still in wonderful condition, and she had written “Jennifer Ada” on Ann’s dress- such a special thing to find.  I went to Michaels and got a frame for it that day- It was one of the few “keepers” from the drawer.  What did the act of cleaning a drawer out and throwing out other things recently teach me (which was something I already knew, but evidently needed to be reminded of now): That I am a part of everything and everyone that I have come across in my life.  I am who I am because of the experiences with people, places and things, and finding them at other times during my life reminds me of yes, these people and the memories associated with them, but more importantly- That I am a special person, because I am made up of wonderful things and experiences, as well as of all the best parts of the people who have come and gone in my life. 

There you go.  Visits from memories and visitors from the past made me realize that life NOW is a beautiful gift. 

May you have visitors and memories that make you feel special, too, because you are.  And don’t feel bad about letting some things go- because all of the memories live in YOU.

Love to everyone.

Jennifer Angarano Ricci is a wife, mother & creative soul-searcher.  She is a musician, artist, and baker, and runs her home business Baked By Jen, in addition to running her local community theater group.  She loves to sing, create and help others and tries to connect all three passions whenever possible.

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