It’s been a strange day. I got home at 3am following several flight delays at the end of a lovely week of visits with Aussie friends in other parts of China. At church this morning I was asked if I would like to sing (I offered to play keys as well) – a full five minutes before the service started. (So lovely to be asked, and so fun to participate!) Then after church was an emotional farewell to two close friends I have worked with for the past three years. Joe has been a friend in Beijing for more than ten years, and what a privilege that has been. But now we are all off to new places, new things.
And after all that, my furniture left me.
When I made the decision that I was really HERE in China, that I wasn’t just waiting for my “real life” as a “normal person” to start in Australia, I bought some things. Material things, things that felt permanent rather than temporary. Things that were good, not just good enough. I bought two solid nesting chests, with padded tops so they doubled as stools. I bought some pretty cloth lined storage baskets. And I had some furniture made.
Oh, how wonderful it was to have those two pieces of furniture settled into my Wangjing apartment! A China cabinet made deep enough to fit my biggest dinner plates, with cupboards tall enough for my tallest drinking glasses, and shelves with cable access holes. My three-piece bureau – three standing chests of drawers that sat together to look like one big dresser, the centre one with a hinged lid revealing a mirror – and made to be at the right standing height for tall, foreign me!
I remember how hugely different my apartment felt when that furniture arrived. How it felt like home. How grown up I felt. How settled I felt. It was a big part of feeling truly at home, of creating a home for myself. How I loved the way the furniture, the chests, the storage baskets, all worked together. They weren’t just things – they meant something.
And now they’re gone. It wasn’t practical to keep them, and I was able to sell them (all of them, together) to another foreign family – making a little more money for my tuition fund. It helps that the family told me each piece was perfect, and just what they needed. But it’s so strange to think they won’t be mine again. That these solid pieces of my life in China are just…gone.
I don’t regret buying them and I don’t regret selling them, but there’s still a touch of sadness to letting them go. Still, as I’ve thought about it, it occurred to me that one day there will be other things like them, in other places I live (and most likely in multiple countries by the time I’m done). There will be other material possessions that have value beyond their price tags and meaning beyond their practical purposes. They will look different, they will have different stories, they will mean something different – and fill a different void (both physical and emotional). But knowing that out there in my unknown future are more stories yet to be told helps me be at peace. I can enjoy the memories of what was and look ahead with wonder at what will be.