Old Casts: Empty Shells of History

We were getting ready to move to a new house, a new town. It was a time of overlap: revisiting what we experienced in this setting to shift into a brand new environment. I remember labeling shoe boxes with "Sandy's Fragile Stuff" and "Middle School Box" - I surveyed my childhood room, the toy chest overflowing with plastic gadgets or plush dolls I was ready to part with. My parents had asked me to put my clothes into open cardboard boxes, but I was decidedly "not in the mood" to deal with my clothes, instead I crawled up the fourteen steps to the second floor.

Mom was sitting on the floor in front of the linen closet next to the bathroom, surrounded by clear plastic bags stuffed with ace bandages, slings, old casts, bi-vals, and varying braces.
"Look at all this! There's so much here, you don't even fit most of it. Time to throw away a lot of it."

I watched as she gently folded the slings I refused to wear, the blue one my friends decorated after I hurt my arm in a game of four-square during gym class. She set aside a small bi-val cast that was for my left tibia, it now looked like it would barely fit my ankle. There was the ace-bandage, the yellowed velcro was bespeckled with pieces of lint wedged between its teeth. That was the bandage my parents first put on my leg when my younger brother fell on me as we played in his crib. Stacked in a small pile off to the side she had rolls upon rolls of white medical tape, tape that I knew she had stealthily learned to pocket each time we went to the cast room. It was the tape she would rip between her teeth, handing each strip over to my dad as they put an old splint back on to stabilize a break on the way to the hospital. My casts had faded sharpie drawings on them, each one had squiggles, pictures, made-up signatures, and smiley faces that reflected my changing group of friends over the years (the friends who stayed the same from 3rd grade to 8th grade) - and, more noticeably, when it was we learned how to spell "feel better soon" correctly.

For my parents I imagine cleaning out this bin of medical supplies, and emergency braces held a different meaning. They didn't see the crowd of kids who swarmed me during recess, each one eager to write their initials on the ridged cast -- many of whom I had never spoken a word to. My parents didn't see the days in middle school when I secretly slipped out of my sling during study hall. They didn't know when I would loosen up the bi-val splint during the bus ride to school. They didn't know about the time the nurse gave me a plastic bag of ice, and it had leaked - the cold water dripping past my toes and settling in the heel of the cast. For them these old bandages probably meant how fragile their daughter was, and even though I didn't grow at the same rate my brothers did - it was clear from the tiny bandages that I had grown, but perhaps more apparent was that I had done a lot more healing in the process. Cleaning out this closet may have also offered some sort of tangible relief for my parents; for them it was also a time to clean out the past injuries and think look she got through this one, and look she healed from that terrible break too - oh and how she fussed and cried when they put that on her.

Regardless, for the both of us, the empty casts and bandages that surrounded us had become artifacts of history, a history that in many ways would remain the same but served to remind us that better days exist. 

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