An Annotated List of Three Things I Unpacked After Moving

By Jennifer Brennock

  1. My father’s ashes

His remains came with me to the house with the first load. Houseplants, vacuum, bottle of whiskey, father. As I put the key in the lock for the first time, I am alone. This is the moment of a lifetime dream achieved. This is following the rules of social distancing; we experience alone the things that should be shared, the important moments that will never come again. I tell the box under my elbow, “I finally bought a house, Dad. Are you proud of me? I wish you were here.”

  1. The Convincer

The “convincer” is a foot-long section of broom handle with grooves carved into one end that is also painted red. My father gave me this to ostensibly to beat the shit out of anyone who messes with me. It is also good for propping open sticky windows of an old house.

  1. Seven bullets

I don’t know, but I was told that my dad kept the bullets inside the crucifix that hung on my parent’s bedroom wall. This seems the only character trait I would ever have to relay about him because it perfectly depicts his irreverence and reverence. He kept the gun in the closet. I remember leaning against his shotgun as a child while playing with his dress shoes. They were shiny and heavy and half my size. I loved the color—cordovan —and the smells of polish and leather. As I pushed them on the carpet, they were giant boats going to mysterious places. They took him to the places where he did not bring me along. Still today, the word “Tranz-ah-mer-ic-a” sounds like some kind of exotic locale in the sky. Unpacking, I put his bullets on my window sill in a jar with my sea glass. In the morning, the casings catch the light and reflect it on the ceiling. When I need a little courage, some kind of irreverence or reverence to make it all a little easier, I slide a bullet in my boot to keep it close.

Jennifer Brennock has enjoyed contributing to Voices of August for years, and she is grateful to George Rede for the open forum and this community of engaged readers and writers. George is listed in the Professional References section of her resume, which will be getting a lot of mileage in the next few months. A grantwriting consultant, Jennifer writes and teaches in Portland.

Tomorrow: “Living through history, then and now” | Eric Scharf

6 thoughts on “An Annotated List of Three Things I Unpacked After Moving

  1. My three would be: 1) my little Christmas tree. I have had it for years and it is burdened with gifted small ornaments, has personally hand painted acorns, and a gnome santa as the tree topper; 2) my Christmas stocking. When my youngest sister was born, my mother’s aunt knitted all six kids a Christmas stocking, with name and year born; 3) my clothes. Let’s get real. I like your list. Yes, I’m very sure dad would be proud!

  2. My daughter has my husband’s things, including my husband (her father) in the simple wooden box I purchased at the funeral home. I had them etch seagulls into the wood, which seemed to matter then but I don’t recall why now. Early Christmas morning a few years ago, my daughter woke to a neighbor pounding on the front door, screaming about needing to get out because of a fire. My daughter reported of scanning her room and grabbing one thing as she ran out – the wooden box containing what remained of her father. Later we had a laugh. “What did you save from the fire?” “Ashes.”

    You unpacked good things. Thank you, as always, for sharing your words.

  3. Such poignancy in those meaningful and cherished items, Jennifer, as you settle into your new home now already filled with some memories.

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