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The Things I Keep

[1]It probably would not surprise you if I told you that I see something every day that reminds me of my daughter Charlotte. If you were to come into our house, you would sense her presence: in photographs, pieces of artwork, a few remaining toys.  There are many ways in which her spirit remains in our home.

Most of her clothes are now gone, passed along to other little girls who love all things pink and purple. I have kept a few select t-shirts and outfits that carry sentimental attachment.

I still have most of her blankets and many of her stuffed animals. I have all of her books. I can’t get rid of books.

Her room looks much as it did before she died. The Tinkerbell comforter sits on the bed. The balloons we collected each year on her birthday are still attached to the wall. In place of a six-year-old’s toys and clothes, my daughter’s room holds supplies for our foundation: t-shirts, marketing materials, swag.

All of these items seem natural to keep. I have noticed, however, that there are random bits of Charlotte that I need to hold on to. These are things that I could get rid of. Perhaps maybe I should get rid of them. I never would have believed that these items would carry any kind of sentimental attachment. Despite all logic, these are the things I keep:

Exhibit A: The sharps container
This was the depository for all of the needles that went into Charlotte’s port when we had to administer various medicines in those final days. The container was supplied by our pediatric hospice in November of 2009. It was placed on top of the refrigerator. It never left. I have thought many times of disposing of the container, yet I find it never leaves its place on the fridge. It reminds me of her bravery. I like remembering that about her.

Exhibit B: The potty chair
I justify keeping this item because it serves a double function as a stool (when the lid is down, of course). There is no rational reason for keeping this in my house right now. We have no children. We don’t have a lot of toddler visitors. Charlotte didn’t even use that potty chair after she was around 3 years old. Yet it stays there. In “her” bathroom.

Exhibit C: The pony phone
Charlotte asked for the pony phone for her 4th Christmas. It was the first time she had ever asked for a specific item from “Santa”. She started asking for this pony phone in October. I believe we had to order it by mail because they didn’t offer it in the store. She. Had. To. Have. The. Freaking. Pony. Phone!

Santa brought the Pony Phone in Christmas 2008. Charlotte couldn’t have been happier. We have the whole “reveal” on video and her reaction is quintessential Charlotte (“Oh mommy! A pony phone! It’s what I always wanted!”). I watch that video and think of the huge tumor that was growing inside her head at that very moment. One short month later, we found ourselves deep in the world of brain cancer. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the last Christmas we had with our daughter. I think I will always keep the Pony Phone.

Exhibit D: The lunch box
When we went to Disney, one of the generous people in our community gifted Charlotte with a Tinkerbell backpack and lunchbox set for our travels. We used the backpack throughout Disney World and it still has a special place in her room. When I went back to work, I started carrying my lunch in the lunchbox. Sometimes I would get funny looks from people who didn’t know better (“Ha ha! Cute little lunchbox you have there!”)If they only knew the whole story, I would think.

With almost two years of wear, the lunchbox has seen better days. Tonight, I decided to go to Target and buy a new lunchbox. I needed something that carried Charlotte’s spirit. A soft, penguin lunch carrier spoke to me. Charlotte loved penguins. They were her favorite bird because “they waddle and swim and they have wings…but they don’t fly.”

I continue to say this, but grief is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s the littlest things, the most unexpected things, the seemingly mundane household objects, that pull at your heart.

So while some people may not understand it, these are the things I keep.

Special thanks to guest author Rachel Reynolds for sharing her story with us. Rachel founded CJ’s Thumbs Up [2] to honor the memory of her daughter, Charlotte. You can read more of Rachel’s work on her blog. [3]