Elena’s Desk

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.

Published in: on June 8, 2006 at 8:49 am  Comments (9)  

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am sorry you’re having to go through these painful steps. Thank you for sharing this. *hug*

  2. I have wanted to write so many times, but I can never think of the right things to say. I am so very sorry for your loss. She sounds like such an incredible little girl. Reading your blog I feel has made me a better mother to my two young children. You are a wonderful writer. Thank you for sharing all of your memories.

  3. Daniel-
    How can I have so much to say, and no words to say it???
    How can we let you know that there are SO MANY of us out here who care so much for you, Kim, and Maggie?
    I can only offer my small consolation that there are so many of us out here living your loss through you, and learning ourselves how much we have to lose. And learning to love those around us with reckless abandon, like tomorrow may never come. Or worse, like it will come, only without the ones we love.
    How can anything good come from such a tragedy? How can someone I’ve never met, in a state I’ve never visited, in a town I’ll never know, make me a better person, husband, and father?
    I don’t know how, but you’re doing it.
    Thank you, Daniel. I feel so bad saying it, wishing to God I’d never had reason to hear of you, that you’d never had reason to write. But thank you for the gift you’ve given me, given us all.
    -Paul

  4. I wouldn’t hurry to pack up her room yet…. Too many times we are in a rush to do some things, when what we should be doing is taking the time to sit back and figure out what we really should be doing. Little steps are often easier and safer to take than big ones. It is often easy to make a quick decision, but often hard to fix it when you realize that you should have done it differently.

    My heart goes out to you, Kim and Maggie.

  5. I find it heartening to learn that Mrs. Chung kept Elena’s desk in the first grade classroom. I think some adults might have wanted to remove it, or empty its contents, so there wouldn’t be a reminder for the children. How wonderful that Elena was still part of the class!

  6. I can’t express myself better than Paul has already…as the father of (2) young children, your postings hit me right in the gut. Through your writing, I share your grief and mourn your tragic loss…

    Please take some comfort in the knowledge that the time you’ve taken to so eloquently express your feelings has caused many of us to review our own lives.

    I simply can’t imagine life without my kids…so I start today on a new journey to being a better dad and husband, thank you…

  7. In 1946 a friend of mine was killed in a motorcycle accident. Your story brought back what I felt when I was asked to empy his locker into box to go to his parents. The pain lingers to this day. The note about cleaning the locker affected me and helped with my feeling experience over 60 years ago. My sympathy goes to you.

  8. I think I’d like to print your blog out to show my mum and dad. We all went through it years ago and they’ll recognise so much of your feelings, as I do. It shouldn’t get better in time but it does.

  9. […] Dear Elena […]


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