Pandora’s Suitcase (on the Closet Shelf)


What hid in the suitcase perched on a closet shelf?

After I moved into my parents’ guest room, I avoided the closet which had been stuffed to the brim with discarded relics of previous occupants of the room. It took over two years before I tackled clearing the closet of snowboarding equipment, school books, toys, broken laptops, gaming equipment and sporting gear. And that’s when I noticed a 1960s suitcase taking up a corner of the closet shelf.

Image by Stux from Pixabay

Since the suitcase looked heavy (a hard suitcase of past eras), I chose not to pull it off the shelf and injure myself in the process. But similar to the Greek mythological character, Pandora, I wanted to know what hid in the suitcase. And I wanted to know if it contained any of my journals or relics of my past. Whose past did it hold?

Several months went by and I dusted the suitcase off. Then I finally couldn’t contain my curiosity any longer and the suitcase resembled a treasure chest. What was hiding in it? I grabbed the step ladder and I swung open the suitcase only to be greeted by a strange odor similar to melted crayons or burned paraffin that eventually took over the closet and seeped into the bedroom. At least no moths or pestilence flew out along with suffering as in Pandora’s case. I did not unleash misery onto the Earth–only my own olfactory system.

I found a nylon nightgown and a dress made from polyester that hailed from the 1960s or early 1970s. My mother either didn’t unpack the suitcase the last time she traveled with it, most likely to El Paso, Texas to visit my grandmother Celina. Or she used the suitcase to store vintage clothing. Which brings up the question why people hang on to clothing that is out of style and that they will no longer fit them?

I come from a family of hoarders and while some people find this entertaining in the form of reality television where they judge their fellow human, hoarding is real mental health issue. When left untreated (which is the case in my family), it is not uncommon for the hoarder to hide perishable food items in bedroom closets, underneath beds, or in the drawers of a dresser no one uses any longer. It’s also not uncommon to find moldy and outdated food that expired years prior or to encounter remnants of rodents in forgotten corners.

While it’s easy to judge someone with a mental health issue, I would ask people to show compassion. We don’t know why people fall into deep denial, fear their own death, or hoard to calm their anxieties. In fact, I don’t know why my family members hoard, but my parents find their roots in the Great Depression–and they grew up in impoverished families. They have also lived in the same house that they bought in 1976.

People also hang onto stuff from the past out of nostalgia of both the good and the bad times. I imagine that some people use these tangible objects as proof that they exist and that they matter. And my siblings have also used my parents’ house as a storage facility. In fact, I’m not even able to use my own bed because I’m not permitted to get rid of my nephew’s bunk bed and super-sized dresser that termites or ants have penetrated and taken as their home.

Meanwhile, I look like a hoarder too even though I live simply because most of my belongings are crated and boxed taking up the other guest room. I dream of manifesting my own cottage and I continue to visualize it until it becomes tangible and within my grasp. I picture myself returning home to immaculate hardwood floors, clear and clean kitchen counters and with only what I need in the cabinets and closets. The zest of lemon tickles my nose.

Since I’ve seen the damage and dangers of hoarding presented by my family members, I seek simplicity. I don’t fear death like others do, but I also have not lived to over 80 years of age watching my friends die one after the other. I haven’t lost my parents or siblings to death yet so I don’t feel a need to hang on to the past. And in fact, I prefer not to hang onto the past for I don’t see it with rose-colored glasses. When it comes to the past I’m a stark realist and it’s only now, in midlife and I reclaiming joy which stems more from the feelings in my heart than what hides in the closet, on a top shelf, forgotten by its owner.