Most people have in their homes a fair number of things that are very important to them, many irreplaceable. There are probably lots of old photographs, antiques passed down from grandparents, and baby’s first shoes tucked away in a chest somewhere. A preschooler’s first drawing might be in a box in a closet, and there could be childhood toys under a bed.
But when you decide to pack your entire life in a suitcase and move to another continent, those things generally don’t make the cut for the luggage weight limit. For me, that was all left behind at my parents’ house. It occurred to me recently how different the feel of a home is when it’s filled with these kinds of personal things, or when everything is new (to you). That’s not to say that I don’t love my apartment and haven’t enjoyed my almost two years living here. But I got to thinking recently about what physical, worldly possessions I have with me here in Spain that x number of euros can’t replace. To be honest, there’s not much. On one hand it’s a good feeling, knowing that you’re not tied down too much. But on the other, it’s comforting to have some reminders of friends, family, and memories with you. Here are a few things I have with me here that money can’t replace.
U.S. measuring cups. There’s nothing nostalgic about these particular measuring cups (and spoons). It’s a set my mom happened to pick up somewhere, just to have extras, not long before I came to Spain. But I do treasure them, because thanks to these I can easily follow American recipes without converting to the metric system. I can make my favorite sugar cookies that taste and smell like Christmas to me. I can make my mom’s biscuits to go with Thanksgiving dinner. Losing these wouldn’t be the end of the world, but the fact that these are in my kitchen drawer makes this apartment just a little more me.
My backpack. This backpack has been with me since the beginning of my globetrotting tendencies. I bought it in 2007 for my trip to Australia, and since then it has been to just about every country that I have. I remember clearly trying on nearly a dozen backpacks at REI, weighing the pros and cons of each, excitedly talking to the salesman about my upcoming trip. In the end I was extremely happy with my purchase, and five years I still am. Sure, if this were to disappear I could go get a new backpack, but I surely wouldn’t find this exact one I’ve grown so attached to, and it wouldn’t come with all the memories.
Childhood books. To find these I actually rummaged through boxes and bookshelves of family memorabilia. These are not just any copies, but the actual books that my mom read to my brothers and I when we were little. They’re some of my favorites (especially The King, the Mice, and the Cheese), and I brought them with me to read with students. These have provided for some of my favorite classes ever. When she let me take these, my mom made me promise to take care of them because she wants to read them to grandchildren someday.
Grandpa’s sweater. Last, and most special of all, is this sweater. It might look like any old thing you can get at JC Penny or El Corte Inglés, but it is far from that. My grandfather, my mom’s dad, and the last of my grandparents, passed away last November. When I went home for Christmas a little over a month later I had the heartbreaking experience of going through my grandparents now-empty house to claim what memories I could. Upon entering the house, I made a beeline for the closet. My entire life I remember my grandpa in his sweaters. He had a few of them, but this gray one and a navy blue one my brother took were by far the most worn. We used to tease my grandpa during the summer that in a few short months “sweater weather” would be back and he could pull out his favorite wardrobe item again. I have this sweater here with me in Spain, and this, above everything else, feels like having a piece of home and family with me. I wear it nearly everyday when I’m at home, but it never leaves the apartment. It’s far too precious for that.