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Their Memory in Worthless, Old Things

by Sam Eliza Green about a month ago in Family
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that mean everything

photo by Yaroslav Shuraev

Let’s pretend we didn’t stumble home last night in a drunken stammer and fall asleep on the kitchen floor, that you aren’t more like the sister I always wanted than the mother I never had. Let’s look past the empty bottles we stashed in our bags because recycling is important and we have to save the Albatross. Seriously, I never do this, pour my heart into a flask and ask someone to drink it, but there’s something I need to say, something you should have known long ago, but I was terrified you would hate me.

I was the one who broke your antique radio.

You have a tendency to hold onto worthless, old things, or so Dad would say, and so I thought when I was younger and knew nothing about who you really are. Call it a guilty conscience, not wanting to unbury this once you’re leaving and won’t have a chance to process the truth. Sometimes, I wonder if you knew all along but didn’t want to say it, betray our passive aggressive act that’s held up after all these years.

If it makes you feel better, I didn’t mean to break it.

Usually, when kids are jealous, it’s over something silly like their brother going to a concert or their sister eating the bigger piece of cake. I was more concerned about how you loved your old things more than us, or so I thought. How could a bookshelf or painting or antique radio be more important than me? I wish I understood the reason you held onto things much sooner so I could have made sense of your obsession instead of letting it tear me apart.

Needles can hurt, but sometimes, they’re fragile.

I was home alone, probably bitter about something Dad said and how you wouldn’t be back from work until later. To be honest, I had learned to find some sort of solace in loneliness, as introverts do. But unlike most days, the silence stung instead of inspiring. I walked through to the kitchen to stare aimlessly at the empty cabinets and became fixated on your radio as I passed it. It was the kind with a turntable inside. I remember on Christmas at the old house you used to play records on it, and for just a moment, we were happy.

The needle, which had been long out of production, snapped when I tried to put one of your grandfather’s records on.

I didn’t know exactly how to use it, but I thought I had learned enough from watching my music teacher in kindergarten. He showed us the ridges on the record and tried to explain sound waves, but all I could think of was the rings inside trees and how I wanted to go on the field trip instead. I wish I had listened then when he said something, probably, about how record players, especially the antique, were delicate things.

I thought you didn’t care because it took so long for you to realize what happened.

Months later, I grew cold and distant when I saw your bitterness about the broken machine. You would try to blame Dad or the boys but never me. And for some reason, I hated that thing — the eye sore that would always guilt trip me into feeling like I’d done something unforgivable. Why didn’t we talk then? I would have known it was the last memory of the grandfather you loved with all your heart, the one who didn't love you back, and that the decrepit bookcase was your grandma’s, who became your mother when yours was too busy running away.

I’m sorry I realized far too late that you hoarded these worthless, old things not for their functionality but to keep your family alive.


About the author

Sam Eliza Green

Wayward soul, who finds belonging in the eerie and bittersweet. Poetry, short stories, and epics. Stay a while if you're struggling to feel understood. There's a place for you here.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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    Writing reflected the title & theme

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