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The Value Of Material Things
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The Value Of Material Things
This was an essay I entered for a contest in Ladie's Home Journal.
[749 words]
Jennifer Nobile Raymond
I'm a 27 year-old aspiring writer living and working in New York City. I have dreams of being paid to write (which is what I love), but right now I make a living as an advertising production manager. I would appreciate any and all comments regarding writing, so please feel free to email me!
[September 2000]
[email protected]
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To Know (Poetry) Ah...falling in love! [51 words]
The Value Of Material Things
Jennifer Nobile Raymond

My parents have always tried to give my brother and me a good life. And life was great until my family decided to move from our home in New York to a three-bedroom apartment in Florida. My dad had dreams of semi-retiring, and since Florida had been the family vacation spot for years, it seemed like a good choice. I was 2 years into college, coming home on breaks to work at a neighborhood bank and to catch up with old friends. During my winter break in 1991 we packed all of our belongings into the moving company’s 18-wheeler. We also left behind piles of “junk” set out as trash; we just couldn’t fit anything else into the truck.

Two days later, I woke up in our new home to the sound of my mom sobbing “Oh, my God!” over and over. She had just received a phone call that would change our lives forever. The moving truck was missing. The movers had stopped overnight at a motel, and the next morning the truck was gone – with our entire lives still in it. We were all in complete shock. How we were going to get by? My parent’s had no jobs yet, and the money left from the sale of the house had gone towards debts. We had nothing except the clothes on our backs.

The police found the truck a couple of days later, empty except for one box that held the Nativity scene we put under our Christmas tree every year.

“They probably thought they’d be struck down by lightening if they took that,” my dad chuckled.
My parents did not cry or sit around moping and complaining. What would that do? It wouldn’t bring back our stuff. So, they did what they did best – they laughed about it. Besides, that was exactly what it all was – just stuff. The only problem was getting the money to buy the essentials – beds, socks, towels, etc.

I went back to school in New York and worked on finishing the semester so I could move in with the family. Within days my mom was working at the local supermarket and my dad got a job with a screen repair company, both earning low wages. After a few weeks my mom stopped slicing meat and started a job as an administrative assistant. My dad, however, was now working three jobs, sleeping only four hours a day. He did this for four years, until we had enough money to move back to New York, where my dad was able to get one job that paid him well. While we did not have many things to move this time, when we were settled in, we actually had a “junk drawer”. We had a drawer in the kitchen filled with stuff we didn’t know what to do with, and to my parents that was a sign that we had bounced back.

This experience has taught my family and me that material things are very frivolous. It could all be gone in a second, in a phone call. We had our health, we had our friends, and most importantly we had each other, and that is how we survived. I don’t tell many people what happened; I find it hard to deal with the look of shock on their face. If I do tell someone, I make sure to explain how my parents were able to pull the family together, which kept us from living on the street. I also tell them that I don’t miss most of the stuff that was lost. In fact, it has made life much simpler, and I enjoy the things I have now to the fullest.

It’s the loss of the pictures and personal things, useless to someone else, which still upsets us today. I can remember my mom and I going through boxes in the attic closet and coming across my dad’s christening outfit. I had plans on using it for my own children someday – now I will never have that piece of history to pass down. My parents will miss reminiscing over old photos with their future grandchildren. My boyfriend will never see videos of the plays I was in during high school. These are the things that had great value to us, and they can never be replaced. Even through all this, our most valuable possessions have been all the wonderful memories, and they are treasures that no one can ever steal.



"Is that a true story? That is so sad and you described it really well. Well done!" -- Paula, Scotland.
"Thanks, Paula. Unfortunately, it is a true story..." -- Jennifer.
"Why wasn't the moving company liable for your belongings? I believe that unless you are self-moving, they are responsible. This has nothing to do with the story except to say that it is a gaping hole in your essay which really needs to be answered somewhere IN the essay." -- Candace.
"Candace - I agree this piece of information is missing, but the essay could only be 750 words, so I made a decision to leave it out. In fact, the moving company was only responsible for damages, not loss. There were many other things involved that resulted in my family not getting any money. This essay was supposed to be about how the family overcame an adverse situation, which is why I focused more on our reaction then on the actual event. " -- Jennifer.


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© 2000 Jennifer Nobile Raymond
July 2000

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