The Things That I Carry

drtackett By drtackett, 5th Nov 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Essays

Sampled from Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," this short essay reflects on some of the things that I have carried, the things I still carry, and the things I have learned to let go.

The Things I Carry

I suppose like many people I carry things that I don’t need, so many pennies, a rosary, worries of bills left unpaid, the insufferable desire to smoke. Odd isn’t it? The things you carry. As an adult, they differ vastly from the things you carry when you were young.

When I was a child, I carried bracelets made of pop can pull-tabs, candy necklaces, jars of lightning bugs and tadpoles. At the end of the day, Mom made us put the tadpoles back in the pond and set the lightning bugs free. She said it wasn’t right that they were caged up like that. Truth be told, she was afraid to walk into a bedroom full of baby toads and neon yellow-stained walls.

I lined my pockets full of penny candies like Mary Janes, squirrels, Bazooka Joe bubble gum wrappers—I bought the gum just for the comics—Cracker Jack toys, and rubber bands. The rubber bands came in handy should a spider get too close. I got so good, I could zing one at ten feet on the first try. My brothers and I could do some serious damage if a burglar were to invade our home—so we thought. By nightfall, the back of my headboard would carry the gum that I had chewed into a hard wad and sucked dry of flavor.

I carried Faygo red pop-stained lips, popsicle sticks, and Sandy Stieger. Sandy was my best friend. She rode on the front of my bicycle, butt between the handle bars, feet dangling on either side of the front wheel, facing forward. I think she weighed fifty pounds soaking wet. We carried each other’s laughter and friendship, secrets and hopes. At thirteen, she started smoking. At fifteen, she was on drugs. We lived two houses away from each other but once she started smoking, I never really saw her much. Mom put an end to our friendship. The nights of flashlight tag and days of water balloon fights ended with innocence lost.

Like most kids I carried the fear of losing someone I loved, my grandparents, a parent. I remember being afraid of my own demise, perhaps instilled by stories of those who had died in my family. My mother had lost a sister, a sister whom she never knew. Mom was the youngest of eight children. Georgie was somewhere in the middle, perhaps twelve years my mother’s senior. Georgie was two when she died. My grandparents kept a picture of her that hung on the wall next to the staircase. A full-length frontal, she was laid out on a sofa, in white. She was pretty in her outfit. I used to gaze at the black and white, weighted with sadness of this child’s passing. I was only seven but I understood that she only appeared to be sleeping. I knew that she was dead.

I carried the fear of death and dying and the round, beautiful face of my Aunt Georgie for years. As I grew, those fears were replaced by other fears, starting junior high school, starting over, starting. Yes, starting. Ugh. Mother Nature’s nasty little trick on women. In third grade, Mom asked me if I knew what one was.

A period?


I looked at her as if she were crazy. Of course I knew what a period was, I was no fool. I was in third grade for Pete’s sake. It’s the the dot that comes at the end of a sentence.

Everyone knows that!

Mom decided it would be best just to wait a couple of years until the school showed us the movie. Looking back, I don’t blame her. I had fits over the movie. Nightmares really. I couldn’t imagine my mother telling me about this terrible, god awful thing that was eventually going to happen to me, and I nor she nor God would be able to stop it. Well, I was having none of it. I was going to devise a plan that would stop that horrible thing from happening. Period. And so useless worry became another thing that I carried.

I worried if I would pass my driving test, math test, eye test, you-name-it test. The only test I didn’t worry about was a pregnancy test. That I passed with no problem. In my early college days, I sprain my ankle. Hell, I sprained my ankle every year since the age of nine, sometimes more than that, but this time it was severe. I was rushed to the hospital to get an x-ray, certain that it was broken by the looks of it. The nurse asked me if there was a chance that I could be pregnant. I said no. She asked what method of birth control I used. I told her the no-sperm method. That was the end of that.

I carried the anxieties of making the grade, making the team, making my parents proud. I wondered if I had done enough to help another or if my words had hurt someone’s feelings. I carried the responsibility of being the oldest of four children, the only girl, the role model, the one to succeed. As I grew older, I carried the guilt of being gay and what effect it had on my family. Did I shame them? Do my parents blame themselves?

All of this I carried on young shoulders and for what purpose? I still got my period, much to my dismay. I passed every test taken (except my vision test), I made every team I tried out for and excelled in each sport, I was an honor roll student, and my parents couldn't be prouder.

And so the things I carry now have less weight. I still carry memories of lightning bugs, Faygo pop, and candy necklaces. Nights of flashlight tag, Mother May I, softball games in the park, melting ice cream cones and sticky faces and hands. I carry lessons learned, wisdom, and experience. I’ve learned to tote things make me smile, that elevate me. I carry pennies that I will never use but make me happy to have, a rosary to lift my spirits even though I’m not Catholic, and a stupid smile on my face that pisses off angry people. I don’t care. I bear a creative mind and the attitude that anything is possible. I carry hope instead of woe. I do what I can for others and pray that it is enough. I treat people with dignity and respect and thus, the burden of hurting another human being isn’t something that weighs on my mind as much as it used to. And while I carry some anxiety over unpaid bills, my parents health, and what the future holds, I don’t concern myself unnecessarily. I’ve learned to pack lightly in my older years, life is weighted enough without the excess baggage.


Adolescent, Adolescent Development, Adolescent Growth, Adolescents, Coming Of Age, Coming Out, Essay, Essay Writing, Essays, Growing, Growing And Learning, Growing Older, Growing Up, Sexuality, Short Stories, Short Story

Meet the author

author avatar drtackett
Currently, I am a Journalist and Screen Study student at U of M, with a concentration in film and screenwriting. My writing will focus on short stories, poems, and some articles.

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