You know that box you have (surely you have one) where you’ve tucked away some precious keepsakes from your life’s sweetest moments? Mine is a shoe box. It used to be an Asics cheer shoe box, from the shoes that came with a dozen colorful plastic discs that you slid into the side to customize them to your school colors. (In a natural progression, I replaced it in my twenties with an Oscar De La Renta gift box.) I have so many treasures in that box. A full diary that my third grade teacher gave me, mementos from school dances, encouraging notes from my favorite OASC (Ohio Association of Student Councils) camp counselors, my tassel from my graduation cap. Concert tickets, letters (because we wrote letters, not texts back then), my Italian visa. A nautilus shell from Positano, a cork from a vineyard in Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. Tags from the first designer anything I ever purchased. A pin from my first ever trip to the Met. Rifling through this box is like scrolling through old Facebook posts, only in real tangible life, before Facebook memories were even a thing. It’s all so nostalgic and delightful. Most delightful though, is one of just a few photos in this box. It’s my favorite photo of myself – full of hope, love, excitement. Trusting of all the things I held in my heart.
My then-husband snapped the photo one night while we were lying in bed. We were both barely twenty something and living a world away from anyone else who meant anything at all, in Lago Patria. (Southern Italia, outside of Napoli). I was so very in love and it is written all over this photo. You can make out my blurry, beautiful antique style rings on my left hand, coyly hiding my freckled, smiling face. I love this photo because it captured, so clearly, that I was living out exactly what my heart wanted. Not to live in a foreign country (I didn’t know well enough to desire that at 20), but just to follow love. I have always done best when I followed love.
I loved my husband more than anything, so I followed him to Italy. I love fashion, so I studied it. I love dogs, so I worked with them. I love music, so I sought it out in my social life. I love jazz, so I learned it and sang it. I love serving others, so I followed that love to a job that allows me to serve people who serve our community. It’s led me to my sweetest treasures in life… the kind you can’t keep in a shoe box. Treasured lessons learned from mostly rewarding and some challenging relationships, two rescued pets who changed my life and taught me the truth about loyalty, a job that teaches me so much about my capacity for grace, betterment, and perspective every day, a son – a song. Some journeys that brought me to the treasures, and some treasures that are the commencement to the journey.
I’m writing this for the same reason that I go sifting through that box, reveling in that sweet photo, once or twice a year. It’s to remember what I want. What I wanted, what I had… what I lost. What I found my way back to. I was made to be all the things I am – a mother, a daughter, a sister, a manager. A believer. A Christian. Gracious. Full of gratitude. Humbled. A caretaker. An advocate for boundaries. An adversary to conflict. A woman who grows every day, sometimes gracefully, and sometimes not. Someone who softens, and who is softened. And to remind myself, with hope, of all the things I’ll someday be. A world traveler again. A wife, for good. And so much more that I don’t even know.