I stood quietly in that room, quite alone, with nothing more than my thoughts as I stared at the closet door handle for what seemed a very long time. However, I’m sure it was truly no more than a moment or two. It was if my entire body was frozen, all except my right arm and hand that is. My arm would begin to move forward while my hand opened as if to grasp the door’s handle but then, and as if those body parts had minds of their own, the hand would close forming a clenched fist and the arm would withdraw and return to my side. All that separated me from my long kept fears was a piece of wood; a wooden door that had remained closed for some time keeping the things it concealed away from me as if those items were quarantined.
With the passing of my wife and best friend, Robin and the passage of time I knew the moment had finally come to open the closet door where her clothes were stored. I had decided to remove the sweaters, jackets, blouses and t-shirts from their hangers and place the not recently worn clothing in boxes. My intent was to take the boxes to a place where the donated articles of clothing would be put into the hands of those who needed them most. I knew in my heart that Robin would have wanted her clothing to go to those in need.
I slowly opened the door but didn’t glance inside until the door was completely opened. As my eyes moved down the row of fabric I almost believed that Robin may at any moment come into the room in search of that perfect blouse, but the feeling soon passed.
One after one, I gathered up the clothes with hangers inside and placed them onto the bed that rested only a few feet from the entrance to the closet. Only after all the articles were removed from the then barren looking closet did I begin to scrutinize each item.
As I removed the hangers and carefully and neatly folded each shirt, sweater and blouse I couldn’t help but recall the times when I had seen Robin wearing those items. As the process began to quicken I came to a blue colored souvenir t-shirt that was imprinted with the words “Bar Harbor Whale Watching Company.”
I vividly remembered when that shirt was purchased. It was many years, and what seemed like a lifetime ago, that Robin and I vacationed one summer in Bar Harbor, Maine. I recall that we stayed at a quaint seaside resort, Atlantic Oaks by the Sea. Our room overlooked the ocean and every morning the Blue Nose Ferry left its pier headed for the coast of Nova Scotia.
The ferry would return each evening after the sun left the Maine sky and I recall how Robin enjoyed watching the passengers depart wondering where they were going. After everyone departed, the pier was so very empty and quiet and only the sound of the waves moving against the pilings could be detected. That soothing sound could be heard all night long.
I remember spending a cool Bar Harbor afternoon on a whale watching tour. The boat was large enough to accommodate at least one hundred sightseers and I recall how much Robin welcomed the hot cocoa that was served as the mist from the cold Atlantic Ocean splashed on her face. Robin looked with amazement as several large Finback Whales breached the surface of the water. I placed that shirt aside believing that I couldn’t yet, and possibly never, part with it.
I continued to examine the pieces of clothing and almost without thought folded each item, laying them in a box near the bed. I came to another memorable item, a white t-shirt with words on it that read, “St. Augustine Lighthouse, St. Augustine, Florida.”
I remembered the days Robin and I spent in the old Florida city of St. Augustine. We vacationed there one summer long ago and I recall the old lighthouse. The lighthouse stood all alone on the shore and rose 169 feet above sea level.
I was perfectly content standing at the base of the St. Augustine Lighthouse but Robin, always the more adventuresome in our partnership, insisted that we climb the winding 219 steps to the top. Once the climb was completed I recall how awe inspiring was the view of the great Atlantic Ocean and the whitecaps born in the cold salty water. I put that shirt aside and separate from the others.
Item after item went into the large box until that cardboard container was filled and another box was needed. As I placed clothing into that box it too began to fill. I then came upon a red t-shirt with writing which read “Seven Falls, Colorado Springs, Colorado.”
Robin and I once visited Colorado Springs and spent one afternoon in the South Cheyenne Canyon. There we traveled along what many call, “The greatest mile of scenery in Colorado.” Within that canyon, and nestled among the aspens, lies a group of seven beautiful waterfalls. I recall that Robin and I walked the 224 steps from the lowest fall, Weimer, to the very highest fall named Bridal. I recall we talked about the sound of the water and birds and the sweet odor that came from the aspen trees. I folded that shirt and placed it with the shirts from Bar Harbor and St. Augustine
Souvenirs of places visited bring back so many memories, some sweet while others are bitter and not worthy of the thoughts they resurrect. The mere sight of a memento from a far off place revives the memory of the long ago time spent there and the ones the moments were shared with. Some thoughts prompt a smile to come over my face while others may cause regrets to come to mind.
I can’t begin to foresee a time when I would once more stand on the deck of the Bar Harbor ship, stand atop the lighthouse and gaze at the white Atlantic Ocean waves or climb the steep Colorado mountain steps. Those moments have come and will never come again. Souvenirs are fond and cherished relics which bring to mind memories that bring a smile to my face.
I have been so many places in my life but I have come to realize that I can’t truly go back to any of them. Those recollections are from a different place and time; a time that has passed and a place that I can never return to. Without my old friend, those destinations don’t seem to look familiar nor any longer hold the allure they once did.
After it was all said and done, I couldn’t part with a single piece of clothing so I placed each item of fabric back onto a plastic hanger, returned them to the closet and closed that wooden closet door.
Where am I going to next? That’s a very good question, where am I going?