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I have been rearranging and sorting things at my house for several weeks now and I have learned something new about myself.

I am unable to let go of anything without giving it time and consideration.  Starting with the long silk skirt my late mother gave me twenty years ago, through pieces of rock, glass, and wood I found three years ago at the bank of my childhood river in Poland, to scraps of paper with notes I had made several years ago.

And all the other things?

What is it about the necklace I received from my “boyfriend” when I was seven years old?  Why do I have to keep it?  I remember the boy vividly.  His name was Detlef and he lived on Siedlungsring in East Berlin.  We visited his family every summer for a couple of weeks when I was a child.  Detlef and I used to ride together on his bike.  I would have to sit either on the back or on the frame between Detlef’s arms.  I remember I liked his clothes and I would ask him to let me wear his sweaters.

What is it about the red pencil holder (with a zipper shredded to pieces now) I used in elementary school? Why do I have to keep it? I remember my teacher, Mrs. Klewer, and her clear voice when she sang for us playing piano.  I remember staring at the golden clip in her wavy hair and thinking about the freckles on her face and hands that moved so effortlessly on the white and black keys.

How about the long plastic ice cream spoons from (then) East Germany?  I don’t use them but I keep them in my cabinet. I remember my grandfather’s story. He told me that story on a hot summer day while we were eating ice cream using the long plastic spoons.  His spoon was purple, mine was yellow.

“What is the difference between heaven and hell, Danuta?”  He asked one of those questions that always led him to telling me a story.

“What is it?”  I asked in anticipation.

“The spoons!”  he said.

“The spoons?” I asked.

“Yes!  Heaven and hell look exactly the same.  There are very, very long tables set up in heaven and very, very long tables set up in hell.  In both places the tables are full of the most delicious foods one can possibly imagine.  People are allowed to eat as much as they want but they have to use very, very long spoons.  The spoons are longer than a human arm.”  He said.

“How can they eat then?” I asked.

“That’s the difference between heaven and hell.”  He said.  “People in hell starve through the entire eternity and people in heaven are always full and satisfied.”

“How come?  They have the same long spoons.”  I asked.

“In heaven, Danuta, they feed each other.”

How about the now-see-through bath towel that was mine when I was an infant?  I don’t remember the towel being used ever but I remember the stories of my birth.  “We were lucky.  We got to the hospital before the snow storm.  When you were born the snow was two meters high.  Everything was so quiet.”  My father remembered.  “We were so happy you were born.”  He said.  “Didn’t you want a boy?” I asked him.  “No.  After your twin sisters died, three years before you were born, all we wanted was a healthy child.”

And how about my mother’s winter coat I have in my closet?  It still smells like her even though she passed away ten years ago.  I remember her hands and how she touched my face saying, “I love you so much, so much.”  I remember her laugh and her high heels.  “I always wanted my daughters to be taller than me.  Thank God, you and your sister are tall.”  She would joke.  “And I wanted you to have long legs because mine are short.”  She would say.  “Why didn’t you ask God for skinny legs?”  my sister would joke back.  I smell my mother’s winter coat and I miss her so much, so much.

As I struggle through clothes, objects, books, notebooks, pictures, postcards,  I come to the conclusion or truth that was eloquently described by Albert Einstein in his essay titled “The World As I See It.”

How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving…

12 Responses to “The World As I See It”

  1. Mel Berning says:

    What timing, personally! I may apply this to my own “letting go” tribulations. This may also prove a great writing prompt in my classes. Thank you.

  2. Perfect time for me to read these thoughts. Last week my basement flooded and in one day I had to unload lots of stuff I’d stored for years. Wondered if the memories will go with the stuff. Wondered if the memories were important to keep, or just the sense of love and attachment to my life and the people who had touched it along the way, and the continuing capacity to feel that love and connection to others. Decided that somewhere in my psyche, those memories had already taken root and transformed into something intangible but permanent. Thought maybe I could trade attachment for connection in a broader sense. Hope so. Your words seem to confirm that hope, along with reminding me of the sweet human sense of longing for memories to remain tangible.

  3. Joyce says:

    I always find your postings thought-provoking, but this one spoke directly to me. Thank you!

  4. Adela says:

    Danusiu, kiedy przeczytałam Twoje wspomnienia, na nowo zanurzyłam się w przeszłość. Pamiętam Twoje opowiadania o Detlafie, żółte plastikowe pojemniczki z jajek niespodzianek z których robiliśmy solniczki … Te wspomnienia przechowuję w moim sercu.
    Pozdrawiam i ściskam Ciebie.
    Adela

  5. danutahinc says:

    Kochana Alu,
    nawet nie wiesz jaka mi przyjemnosc sprawilas swoim komentarzem.
    Koniecznie musisz przeczytac nastepny wpis (powinien byc gotowy jutro).
    Mysle, ze ten tez duzo Ci przypomni.
    Tak sie ucieszylam widzac tutaj Twoje imie!
    Najmocniej Cie sciskam,
    Danuta

  6. Khaled says:

    I loved it Danuta, it is so heart felt that it touched my heart.

  7. jemN says:

    Bravo ms. Danuta! I like the way you write. An inspiration for me. Thanks! ^^