Isn’t it funny… how the most ordinary thing can hold such cherished memories? It is, after all, just a gym bag.
Just a gym bag.
It was early August, 1996. I traveled home to visit with Mom and Dad – while I had the chance – before becoming immersed in a new graduate school program. One morning Mom and I were sitting at the kitchen table chatting while I looked through a catalog. (Oh my, she had many catalogs!) I noticed this really neat gym bag, with lots of pockets, and it could even be personalized. I pointed it out to Mom, mentioned that I could really use a gym bag and this one could be a good Christmas gift idea.
I didn’t think much more about it. A couple of weeks later, August 26, back in Pittsburgh and the first day of school! A new graduate program, a whole new direction, and I felt on top of the world. So many new and exciting things happening in my life!
That night, I got the call. Dad had come home and found Mom on the kitchen floor. The coroner said that It was such a massive heart attack, it was very quick and she did not suffer.
So, instead of enjoying my first week of school, I traveled back home to bury my mother. I returned to Pittsburgh the following week, my world turned upside down. How could Mom die at only 58 years old? There were so many things that I would never get to share with her.
A couple of days later, a package arrived. It was the gym bag, personalized with my intials – just how I wanted it. And a packing slip: “A gift for you, with love from Mom.” She had ordered it right after I talked to her about it… very possibly the same day. She did not want me to have to wait for Christmas. And so it came to me, like a gift straight from heaven, reminding me of how very much I was loved.
This August will mark 10 years without Mom. The gym bag has served me well, but has seen better days. Now there is a large tear on one end, and duct tape holding together one of the clasp rings for the shoulder strap. The other clasp ring has been completely replaced. The initials are outdated, since my last name has not started with a “B” in nearly 7 years. Yet, I find that I don’t want to get rid of the bag. Somehow, that would seem like giving up a little piece of Mom.
I have a new gym bag now, but this one still sits in my closet – rips, duct tape, and all – filled with sweet cherished memories.
Quote under lift-up flap reads: Most of all the other beautiful things in life come by twos and threes, by dozens and hundreds. Plenty of roses, stars, sunsets, rainbows, brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins - but only one mother in the whole world. Kate Douglas Wiggin