Yesterday after school, Maggie and I cleaned out Elena's desk. Kim had talked with Mrs. Chung to see when the best time would be and Maggie asked if she could help. I met Maggie after school and we headed up to Mrs. Chung's classroom as the last kids were leaving. Mrs. Chung handed us a box and asked if we'd like her to do it.
"No thanks," I said, "Maggie and I will."
Maggie opened the desk and started to pull out the last pieces of Elena's physical presence in the school. There were clothes starting with a couple of winter hats. There was another pack of emergency clothes packed in a plastic bag. There was a sock full of coins for the counting exercises the kids did.
There were workbooks and school papers as well as books from home that Elena had brought in to share with her friends. There were notes to and from other children. Mrs. Chung gave us an essay Elena had written about herself with a picture of her from when she was a baby. A tiny little thing looking up from a circular baby blanket my mom had knit her.
We found a framed picture of Sophie that Elena had kept in her desk inside a frame that read "my best friend". We'd seen Sophie's mom on our way into the school. Seeing the picture made Maggie and I pause.
Our favorite item was a tiny spiral bound notebook. On each page was written the name of a classmate together with their telephone number. Elena had a little address book for her friends in school so that she could call them when she wanted to. Some had included their area code and some hadn't. A few only remembered five or six of the digits in their phone number. Having a network of friends she could contact seemed very Elena.
Maggie and I put the items in the box. Mrs. Chung brought over Elena's portfolio.
"I don't know if you want this," she said.
We didn't know either, so we took it and put it in the box. Maggie and I thanked Mrs. Chung and walked out of the school with the box full of Elena's stuff. We haven't packed up her room at home yet. I've pushed Kim a bit on this but I know now from this little experience of boxing up just some of her things that Kim is right. We aren't ready yet.
Maggie and I went out to the playground with the box. Maggie climbed trees and played on the playground while Elena's box sat quietly.