I suppose one could say we all travel through time. Just living our daily lives is a form of time travel albeit ever so slowly one day at a time. When we’re young we can’t wait for life to bring us to those ever so important ‘coming of age’ dates. As young children we excitedly count our tiny fingers until we commence our first exciting day of pre-school or grade one. We want to be just like the bigger kids or maybe an older sibling, all grown up and self-important. Next we head for the double-digits and then become teenagers who are even more grown up. And now we’re able to do things on our own and have a network of friends and even fledgling romances. What a hellish time it can be for most parents. But while we’re waiting, it seems to take forever. The advice and wisdom of parents and ‘all those older people’ falls on deaf ears through all of these phases. “Don’t be in such a hurry. You’ll look back one day and wish you were young and carefree again.” But for now, you just want to get there as quickly as possible. And so it goes until decades later a life-altering event will take place (probably one of many) and we find ourselves catapulting back to our past and wondering where on earth the time went. This is exactly where I found myself this summer.
I have experienced a number of these life-altering events and have come to the conclusion that I must have arrived at what would be the ‘older and wiser’ phase of my life. I’ve conquered many personal challenges and celebrated ‘coming of age’ transitions. I’ve learned for the most part to be content and most importantly grateful for a life blessed with good fortune, security and fulfillment. I am sure many of you will relate to what I am saying given the state of current affairs around the world.
But this summer, I‘ve been soundly knocked off my lofty perch of “wisdom and perspective”. I’ve found myself unexpectedly torpedoed back in time more than six decades. Older and wiser or not, I didn’t see it coming. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional journey I would soon be taking. We sold our home. We finally decided that Manzanillo is where we want to spend our remaining ‘golden’ years. We will rent in Canada on our annual sojourns back. Without the expense of two homes which were empty half of the year anyway, we can travel more and return more often. The children have their busy lives and have moved away. Hopefully they will visit us down south more often too. We’ve joyfully fallen prey to that beckoning ‘temptress’ named Manzanillo, Mexico. With her alluring beauty and coastal climate, lush mountains, economic bliss and wonderful people we are ready to commit to winters there forever.
But first we must disassemble our life as we know it and divest ourselves of the tremendous inventory of accumulated ‘stuff’. Where on earth did it all come from? Now we’re about to trade off living far too largely for living much more simply. The plan seemed so obvious and logical that I hadn’t really anticipated what is now turning out to be truly complex. You see if we are not going to buy property again here in Canada, we are more or less looking at liquidating most of our possessions. It’s either that or a whole lot of moving and storage in the future. Instead, after researching options, we plan to rent furnished accommodations on our returns.
Thank goodness the possession date of our sold house is negotiated for 60 days rather than the fairly common term of 30 days. Armed with my typical list of To Do’s, I decide to first head for the dusty catacombs of the garage storage area and haul out all of the old boxes that have sat there undisturbed since the last move many years ago. You might say I’m unwittingly starting with the toughest chore first. As one dear friend said to me “you’re doing your family a big favor by taking care of this now”. My odyssey has begun.
It’s so easy to stack and cram boxes into storage. This is usually the fallback decision for all the things you must either keep (such as taxes and legal documents) or souvenirs and memorabilia you can’t or don’t know how to part with. Of course the longer we live the more we collect. With the passage of time I hadn’t noticed that I’d also become the recipient of family treasures (mostly photos) from my parents who have both passed on. But I also found myself facing boxes of ‘goodies’ left with me for safe keeping by my children which I had quite forgotten about. I started my journey back in time by digging in to boxes filled with items left behind from my parent’s lives.
And suddenly there I am a ‘voyeur’ to a life that had preceded me. All of these little black and white photos send me on a journey hovering above the homes of my parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Then I’m transported to England and Scotland envisioning and feeling how life might have been for my father when he was overseas with the RCAF during WWII. I’m reading letters written by my mother and father during those times and scanning diaries containing notes by mom detailing the parcels she sent overseas. Now I’m moving on to my childhood with my brothers as we grew up together. I am back to a time that seemed less complicated somehow. We were more accepting then of those old traditional family roles; working father, stay-at-home mother, home cooked meals, curfews, choir practice, church on Sunday, family picnics. I remember feeling so safe and protected. Of course these memories were never really forgotten. More, they were buried by the passage of years and busy living. And here for the first time I find myself really struck and somewhat shocked by how quickly time has flown. Suddenly I’m here and my life has whipped by in fast-forward.
As I continue to pour through box after box over the next weeks I find myself emotionally exhausted. I have limited myself to a goal of 1-2 boxes of memories. Therefore I am carefully screening every piece of paper and photograph. Cumbersome albums and picture frames are dispensed with. It’s surprising how much a person can store in a box that way. My head is filled with memories that bring renewed perspective, joy, and sadness in some cases. Letters, cards and homemade drawings and letters from my children over the years make me feel so loved. What a unique gift this ordeal has turned out to be. I am reliving so much of my past life and now I accept so much more of it with a sort of calm clarity and wisdom. The puzzle pieces have all come together. It really is bitter-sweet yet kind of wonderful. It almost feels like I’m living my life twice (without the option to change anything).
And so for now this part of the new journey is complete. I feel more ready to move on and make the best of the rest of my life. The task has led to confidence in the choices being made and even anticipation. This daunting process has given me a sense of freedom and allowed me to move on with few regrets. There is a new found resolve to live each day as slowly as possible and really savor it. The clock is ticking.
Now it’s time for the easy stuff. Shredding years of taxes and financial crap, holding garage sales and literally selling, donating and parting with everything but a few keepsakes. Wish me luck. I hope it’s less complicated in this next round.
Suzanne A. Marshall hails from western Canada and has been living the good life in Manzanillo over the past 8 years. She is a wife, mom and grandma. She is retired from executive business management where her writing skills focused on bureaucratic policy, marketing and business newsletters. Now she shares the fun and joy of writing about everyday life experiences in beautiful Manzanillo, Mexico, the country, its people, the places and the events.