We are many people in a single lifetime.
A woman may be child, student, sister, friend, cheerleader, hero, lover, mother… We can still recognize some of our former selves after the passage of years while some earlier selves we choose to ignore or forget. Who we have been sometimes comes back to haunt us. Detritus of the persons we once were accumulates, the debris of our former selves often being stored in boxes, hidden away until such time as the voice of reason forces painful reality upon us.
“Kim, you have to move all that stuff out of your old room.”
“But mom, where am I supposed to put it?”
“That's not my concern, dear. You left all those things when you moved out, we're not the Kim Possible museum.”
“Most of it is garbage.”
Her mother raised one eyebrow, “So that means we should keep it? You can sort it all out at your place. But it all goes. Oh, except that box on the dresser. That stays here.”
Her mother was right, she had moved on and out, but Kim still tended to think of the old room as hers. Before starting to bring boxes and bags out to the car she glanced into the box on the dresser. It was filled with things like pictures she had drawn in kindergarten, a favorite book she had demanded be read every night for a year, the first baby tooth she lost, a Christmas ornament she had made in the second grade, her first little cheerleader top -- Kim was tempted to take that for herself -- the stocking she hung by the fireplace every Christmas for years -- Kim smiled and moved that to one of the boxes she was taking. The contents of the box on the dresser were pieces of her childhood that her mom and dad wanted to keep for themselves.
Kim hesitated when she reached home, the back seat packed with all she had been told to remove from her parents' home. She didn't even know what was in some of these boxes and bags. She had lived without the contents for years -- should she just throw them out unopened now, or should she revisit her former lives and risk storing them until her grandchildren moved her into a retirement home and shoveled it all into the dumpster? She sighed and moved everything up to the bedroom. All these things had once meant something to her. She should look at them again individually before throwing them out.
On top of the first box she opened was a small cloth sack of rocks. Once she could have remembered why she thought each rock was pretty, or on what beach or vacation she had picked it up, and she was almost positive that three of them came from uncle Slim's ranch -- but was only certain now that the crinoid fossil came from there. Ruthlessly she put them all back in the cloth sack and threw it into the trashcan. If everything was so easy to judge and dispose of she should have very little left after going through it all.
But not everything in the first box went as easily as the sack of rocks, although most of it went. There were ticket stubs from movies she had seen with Ron, concert stubs she was still tempted to keep, the brittle remains of the corsage from the dance at which she learned the painful truth -- Ron couldn't dance. A church bulletin from the Christmas pageant where she had an embarrassing solo went to the trashcan. An award for bringing the most canned goods for charity in the third grade went the way of the church bulletin, as did a program for a Jr. High play in which she had a small role. A Coke can in French was a reminder of a family trip to Quebec, and a Coke bottle in Hebrew was a gift Ron brought her back from his first trip to Israel. She set the Coke can and bottle aside; she would decide their fate later. One curiosity caught her eye. She pulled out a small jar that had holes poked in the lid. She wondered what the jar might have been and why it was in with her box of memories, because it held none for her.
Twenty-one Years ago…
The Doctors Possible took a break from moving in to sit on the front step and watch Kimberly chasing lightning bugs. The house had left them a little strapped for cash at the moment; although eventually they would be earning enough that it wouldn't matter. But they were setting up and arranging their furniture by themselves to save on moving expenses.
Kim was delighted to be out of a graduate student apartment and to have a yard of her own. She had a big room all to herself now, and while the stairs were scary it was going to be her room. Tonight would be her first night in the new house, in her new room, in her new bed. She wanted to catch enough lightning bugs to use as a nightlight. She laughed as she pursued the fireflies across the grass. James had found an empty jar and poked holes in the lid so she could collect what she captured.
“She's gorgeous,” he said to his wife.
“She certainly is.”
James sighed. “I'm going to have to buy a shotgun.”
“Why? You don't believe in hunting. And a gun would be dangerous to have around the house.”
“Oh, I won't buy any ammunition. I just want to be cleaning it when boys arrive to take Kimmie on dates.”
They watched Kim for another minute in silence, then Jean asked, “Does it scare you that she's completely fearless.”
“Constantly. She's always willing to talk with strangers. I want her to be able to protect herself. I'm actually thinking of signing up for a martial arts class with her -- it's a family program.”
“You're joking, right?”
“No. We can't start until she's three, but I think any girl should be able to defend herself. And it will give me a special night with my girl.”
Jean shook her head. “I approve of wanting Kim to be able to defend herself. I just think you're starting her a little young.” Then she called across the darkening yard, “Kim! Come in, time for bed.”
“Ah, mom, just a little more time.”
“Better listen to your mother, Kimmie-cub.”
The little girl came racing lightly across the yard, jar in hand, “Look at all the lightning bugs I caught!”
Her father admired her haul, then opened the lid and let the beetles fly away.
“Daddy, I caught them. Why are you letting them go?”
“They're living creatures too, Kimmie-cub. They're little, but maybe they have friends and family they want to fly home to. Would you like it if someone kept you in a glass jar away from mommy and me?”
“No. But I wanted a light.”
“Tell you what. I'll leave the hall light on for you tonight. And tomorrow we'll buy a night light for your room. How about that?”
“Great! Is it okay to catch lightning bugs again?”
“Sure. Maybe I'll even help you next time. But after you catch them you should always let them go back to their own families. Never be a bully. The stronger should always try and help those who are weaker.”
Kim saw no reason to keep the jar, but it was glass so she set it aside for recycling.
She gasped as she noticed another item in the box, a piece of wood, cut into a heart shape, about eight inches across. It was crudely painted red, looking like a first-grader had slapped the paint on a crafts project (probably because it was a craft project from a first-grader) and 'Kim' was written on it in big, almost blue letters. Ron had not waited until the red paint tried before he had put on Kim's name in blue, and as a result her name was swirled with streaks of purple. She had thought it wonderful when she had been six and kept it up in the room for three years.
Seventeen Years ago…
“I want to thank you, Rachel, for the way you look after Kim.”
“It's no problem, really. I work at the JCC and it's a joy to watch Kim. Actually, she and Ron play together so well after school that's its less work for me when she's here.”
“I can't believe all the programs the J has, although James and I feel a little odd about belonging here when we're Methodists.”
Rachel laughed, “Don't worry about that. About a quarter of the people who belong to the Jewish Community Center aren't Jewish.” She hesitated for a minute, then asked, “If you don't mind -- why is Kim so interested in martial arts classes? There are several offered here after school and it seems like she takes all of them. She's talked Ron into taking a couple, but he usually prefers the craft classes.”
“Oh, I blame James for that. They took a family class together for years -- until he got a new project a few months ago and has had less time. She says she wants to teach Kung Fu, or karate, or one of those things when she grows up.”
“Well, she is remarkable for such a young girl. Several of the teachers here have been very impressed with her. The krav maga instructor said she had never seen anyone even twice Kim's age with so much ability.”
“It's called skills transfer. The basics are similar in a number of the disciplines, so while she is starting on something which may sound new she already has learned many of the basics. If she sticks with it she will probably be able to compete in the Olympics someday. But I expect something else will draw her attention one of these days. Still, James likes the idea of her being able to defend herself.”
“So long as it doesn't make her aggressive. I worry about some of the kids who take the classes… Oh, not Kim. But I'm glad Ron doesn't take as many as she does.”
“I don't think you ever have to worry about Ron. I've never met such a polite young man.”
“Thank you. And if we're giving out thanks I need to thank you for watching after him. I think he's at your house more than he's home. If the two of them aren't in school or here I can usually find him at your place.”
“They do seem to be inseparable.”
“At least for now,” Ron's mom agreed. “It's like your Kim and her martial arts -- something else will come up some day. But I think it's wonderful he's got a friend like her.”
Kim put the heart into a pile of things she wanted to keep. She sighed as she considered how much there still was to look at. And if the first box was any indication she should really wait until Ron got home and look through them with him. It seemed that her past lives were as much his as they were her own. Besides, according to the clock it was time to go get the girls from preschool.
Yesterday, a child came out to wander
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go 'round and 'round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game