General Fiction posted September 17, 2022

This work has reached the exceptional level
Is it the memory or the material item that's cherished

Are They Just Memories

by Annmuma

It is the summer of 2022. My neighborhood lies in the path of raging fires, combined with equally raging winds. TV and radio are no longer working.  I have my phone in hand, and, via the Wi-Fi, I know it is time to choose only five additional items to save before the police-required exit from the home I love. 

My neighbors and I had a few hours to gather our pets, our favorite photos and to make certain our cell phones were prepared to go; then, at the last moment, the vans roamed the streets, loudspeakers on:  “In addition to your pets, photos and cell phones, you will be allowed to bring five items. Be quick. Time is running out.  Choose carefully.”   I’m not sure that ‘Choose carefully’ was spoken.  Maybe I just heard it in my mind.

My first thought was, ‘I can’t think of five items I care that much about. Oh sure, I love my books and my house is filled with them, books from my childhood, self-improvement books, religious books, favorite authors, favorite poets, my high school annuals… ‘   For a moment, I stopped to wonder why I didn’t include those yearbooks in my pictures already gathered and accounted for. Certainly, they reflect so much from my teen years.  But time is passing quickly, I must make some decisions. 

‘Do I have any other material things about which I care enough to save?’

My purse is number one.  There is no real choice there and I had not considered leaving it behind anyway.  Still, I had better declare it as Item Number One.  My purse: The home of my identity, really.  Driver’s license, social security card, voter’s registration, all of the health insurance ID cards, credit cards, my calendar, a favorite poem written by a friend, keys to my office, my car and garage door remotes  ..  with any luck, my house will still be standing after the fire and both remotes will be important.   That thought alone initiated Item Number Two – My Car!

My car is a no—brainer! I do not think twice as to why I need it.  Again, it is just one of those things I cannot imagine being without.  My maps, my favorite bird book and my binoculars are permanent parts of my car. They are never removed for fear I will need or want one or the other of them and they will not be available.  I never want to take the chance of missing a life bird!

Items one and two, purse and car –well, that sounds as if I might just be running up to the corner store for something. Time is running out and I need to focus on what I may never see again if the fire destroys my neighborhood as it has too many others. 

"Is there really any other material thing I feel is important enough to save?"  I ask myself aloud.

As I glance about my home, the walls first, my eyes land on two souvenir spoons hanging on one of twelve racks housing over one-hundred special memories.  One spoon is labeled ‘Tombstone, Arizona’ and the other, ‘Australia’.   Tears immediately cloud my eyes, not at the memory, but at my good fortune in seeing them in time to make two spoons my choice as item number three.  

I am hoping ‘two’ spoons will be counted as ‘one’ item.  I will emphasize categories if the subject comes up!  The thought makes me smile through the tears.  These two spoons represent one event, when my husband spoke to me from the other side.  It’s a long story and I’ve written about it many times, under various titles including, Last Goodbye or First Hello, my favorite short story sharing of the event that saved my life in so many ways on a day I needed an extra hug.

Okay. Now, I have three items, and only two to go.  Suddenly that list of five seems short, as I now see dozens of items I want.   I close my eyes to think as I look at each beloved item and again speak aloud.

"Is it the item I want or do I  just want the memory?" 

That’s a complicated thought.  The memories are mine; they cannot be destroyed by fire.   That realization alone eliminated most of the things I touched as I walked slowly through each room in my house.  

I stopped when I came to an area in my bedroom, cordoned off as a memorial space.  In that area rests the urns of both of my late husbands; it is a place where I visit memories, a place of peace and love. Okay, item number four is chosen and again, my negotiating skills may be called into play as I create one item out of two urns!

I’ve ten minutes left and, as I speed through the rest of my house, I grab a bottle of my favorite wine and a special wine glass received from a special friend – item number five. 

I am suddenly glad I make my living via negotiating; thus, those skills are about as good as I can get them and I feel confident ‘categories’ will be sellable when I reach my spot in line.

I throw the last of my chosen items in the back of my Chevy Blazer and depart with calmness and a lack of fear.  Indeed, I laugh, even though I realize the dire situation we are all in, as I imagine myself in whatever shelter to which I am assigned. 

In my mind, I sit on a cot, surrounded by my pictures and my pet already allocated to my area.  I have locked my purse in the designated spot for hiding in my car, slid the remote in my pocket, unpacked my urns, placed my spoons underneath my pillow and poured a glass of wine. 

Life is always good.

What would you take? contest entry


Choosing 5 items in addition to pictures and pets was a little difficult than I imagined. One of the pleasures of this contest was reconsidering so many memories wrapped in so many loved keepsakes.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by suzannethompson2 at

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