Dumbo is about six or seven inches high and sits on the counter between my office and my kitchen. If you ever come to visit me, you’ll notice him as soon as you walk in because he doesn’t really fit in.
You see, my house is an older place, and it’s full of antiques, old furniture, odd old knick nacks, things from my grandparents and even great grand parent’s house. There’s not a lot of cute in my house. But here and there you’ll find something like Dumbo. Or the tiny little wind up fishing game I used to play with my son.
I bought Dumbo soon after my divorce, on a trip to Disney with my kids. I found him in one of the shops, and I ended up buying two, one for me, and one for my daughter. And ever since then, Dumbo has stayed close to me, somewhere in my office, where I could see him in the place I spend most of my time, always reminding me of my daughter.
As hard as the end of a twenty five year old marriage was, and as hard as losing that part of my identity as a “husband” was, losing the day to day contact with my kids was harder. I loved being dad, the one who took the kids to so many things at school, who got to chaperon field trips, do church with them, all the day to day things that make up being a parent.
And so, when my ex wife and I separated, the things I wanted most to take with me were not the most expensive things, the big furniture, or large screen TV. No, I wanted the painting my daughter did. Drawings by my son. I was happy with enough furniture and stuff to just live simply.
In fact, I found moving to a simpler life actually suited me well. Far better than the somewhat large life we led before.
Having things that belonged to the kids around made, and still make, such a difference. Dumbo. Legos. Things that others might put away, I kept in sight. When my son, for instance, came to visit for the summer, I would not clean up after him, sometimes for weeks, just to have the reminders of him all about me.
I had a surprise, when my daughter chose to move up here to Vermont and live with me the summer after her junior year in high school, and do her senior year with me before going to college. It was never expected and the gift of that year, and her being here since, in the summers and holidays while she is in college, is a miracle to me, a joy that , even now, years later, I can’t even express well without choking up.
Perhaps, with her living here, I could put Dumbo away. But Dumbo, and other things that remind me of my kids, now have a new meaning. They remind me of the unexpected miracles in life. The grace God springs on us again and again, when we allow him to, when we open ourselves to the possibilities.
I used to wonder why, when I visited older people’s homes, their house seemed so cluttered with little things, sometimes offbeat things. I think I am coming to understand better. As I age, I have more and more things like Dumbo. I have a card from the woman I love on my desk, years old, that I don’t want to put away. I have a drawing of a penguin from my son on the icebox. A small box from Russia given to me by my sister. My grandfather’s small barometer, which has not worked in years, on the wall just above Dumbo.
All of no value, except to me, for the memories, for the promise of the future, for the joy those things still consciously bring to me when my eyes rest on them. My house is a place of stories. Not just a place to live.
And I like it that way.
Be well. Travel wisely,