Memory Found

I needed a better coat, something with a little more class than the country-coarse I wear around the yard. So I reached into the back of the closet and pulled out something respectable, stored and unused for years, waiting for just this time.

Later, I discovered the pockets weren’t empty.

The coat was pale grey, so pale it was almost white. I don’t know if the coat was ever used much, but I wasn’t its first owner. It was an inheritance from Grandpa.

There is an odd little thrill wrapped up in finding things in the pockets of second hand clothing. I remember the sensation from a few lucky finds in second hand clothes brought into the house. It feels a bit like finding treasure, and a bit like finding the remnants of a past civilization. Much like finding scribbled notes in a book, the pocket discoveries are memorials to those who came before. They are fun when you can imagine the things found belong to someone living, someone still carrying on their adventures somewhere else in the world. The finding is more melancholy when you know the person who left the tokens is dead.

Both front pockets were full. In the right I pulled out a small ziplock bag with a few packets of sugar substitute and two match packets from a grocery story no longer in business. There was also one crumpled paper towel. The other pocket held another booklet of matches, more paper towels neatly folded, yellow with age, and a few tissues. In the bottom of the pocket was one piece of peppermint candy.

The matchbooks and folded paper towels brought the surprise and ache of memory. This was grandpa’s treasure, carefully stored away over a decade ago. Back when he still smoked the matches were a regularly necessity. When I was little he would let me blow the match out after he had lit the cigarette. The sugar was in case it was needed for coffee, the candy because a man needed that for in a pinch. And the paper towels folded for use as tissues was the perennial mark of Grandpa.

Memories that I go looking for don’t catch me by surprise, and the act of deliberately digging up the past provides its own form of preparation, which is a bit of a defense. But unexpected memories stumbled upon, the past preserved as if it had only happened yesterday and so bridging nearly two decades as if it were only hours ago can give a strange hurt made poignant with its unexpected freshness.

Ah, hello Grandpa. No, I hadn’t forgotten you. Life moves so quick, but strange how you are still so freshly here.


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