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Holding on to the past

The new furniture and bedding has been ordered.

With the arrival of an accent pillow, we’ve been able to choose a new paint color.

This room that started out as a nursery filled with ladybugs, fireflies, bumblebees and butterflies has had subtle transformations over the past 9 years.

From toddler princess…

to American Girl princess…

to “I’m a big girl now, no more princess stuff” room.

About a year ago, my soon-to-be 9 year old daughter announced that pink was no longer her favorite color. Her room was way too girly. I’ve resisted the change for as long as I could, but over the summer, all remnants of this pretty in pink room will be gone. We’ve found new homes for the bed and other pieces of furniture that once resided in this very girly little girl’s room.

In the negotiation process, my daughter agreed to certain terms. We’ve been at odds for the past several months because her room is often a disaster area. She suffers from what many of us suffer from: too much stuff and not enough space to put it all. She finally agreed to part with a sizable collection of My Little Ponies, Littlest Pet Shop Pets, Barbies and all the various and sundry paraphernalia that accompanies said collections. This includes a large fold-out Barbie castle with a horse drawn carriage, furniture, clothes, etc. (LOTS and LOTS of etcetera. Two large boxes of etcetera, actually.)

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks going through and sorting toys to be given away. We’ve redressed all the naked Barbies and returned them to their original personas of Barbie Princesses, separated the ponies from the pet shop crowd, and threw in some DVDs to go with the different collections.  We wanted her old toys to seem as new as possible so that the little girls receiving them might enjoy them as much as she has.

She’s been a real trooper. Of the sizable collection of Barbies, she only asked to keep two dolls (one given to her by her cousins and one to keep the other one company I suppose) and a small Barbie car. As I was boxing up the rest of the stuff, I asked her repeatedly if she was sure she was ready to part with her stuff. She assured me she was.

There were a few items she pulled out of the box. I reasoned that she was taking a last stroll down memory lane and I was fine with that. The first item was a blow-up swimming pool complete with slide and diving board, which I found in her bathroom filled with water. This was quickly emptied, disassembled and put back into the box. I’m as nostalgic as the next person, but I’m not a big fan of indoor water toys.

The other item was a tiny, plastic recreated scene from the movie Barbie Fairytopia:

Since she had spent many hours playing with this particular toy, I asked her if she wanted to keep it. “I don’t care”, she said. “Are you sure? Because I really don’t mind if you want to hang on to it”, I said.

“No, Mom. I don’t care. I don’t really want to talk about my room stuff right now.”

Fair enough. Into to the box it went with everything else. That was Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning, I loaded up the boxes into the back of the jeep and headed to church. One friend’s daughter would be the recipient of the ponies and pets, another friend’s granddaughters would be getting the giant box of Barbie stuff. All was well.


We got home from a late lunch after church. My daughter, tired and cranky, went straight to her room. Moments later she emerged asking where her flower thingy was. I reminded her of the conversation we had about whether or not she wanted to keep it. With tears in her eyes, she told me she did. “But I need that back. I didn’t mean to give that away.”

Uh oh.

In separate conversations, her father and I both explained that we had already given her things away and it wouldn’t be right to take it back. She said how sorry she was, how that toy reminded her of when she was little. She went on to say she didn’t know how much it meant to her until she didn’t have it anymore.

After a couple of hours she was still upset. I conceded to a point. I told her I would call Mr. Randy. If he hadn’t given the box to the girls, I would ask if I could stop by and get one item out of the box. But if the girls had already opened the box, its contents belonged to them.

I think I was almost as relieved as she was that the box was still sitting in the back of Randy’s truck unopened. I don’t know if it was the best example to set as a parent. The best thing to do was to probably just tell her you can’t give something away and then ask for it back.

But I know what it’s like to have something and lose it, never understanding how important it is to you until it’s too late. This time it wasn’t too late.

She’ll be 10 years old in 2 short months, and I’m happy she has something special to remind her of when she was little. I’m even happier that she wants to hang on to being a little girl a bit longer.

It all goes by much too fast.

Love still holds on (by Billy Coffey)

image courtest of

If you were here last Monday, then you’ve already read Part One of this story. If not, check out Holding On.

Here’s Part Two:

“You’re gonna have to write about this, aren’t you?” she asked.

I nodded and said, “I’m afraid so.”

She looked down and toed the concrete. A faint smile crossed her mouth. “Awesome,” she whispered.

And it was awesome. The sort of story that I like to tell, part II of what will hopefully be a trilogy, complete with a “happily ever after” at the end.

Last May I wrote a post about her, her boyfriend, and their impending and involuntary separation. The college year was over and she was heading home to Utah, leaving both her love and her desire here. Her boyfriend lived and worked about three miles from campus.

Neither had ever believed in love at first sight. Not that they were jaded, mind you. Just practical. It takes time to fall in love. Time and effort and more than a little doubt. At least in their experience.

But experience isn’t always the best teacher, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Love is a power unto itself. It cannot be bottled for study or manipulated for experimentation. It simply washes over you and leaves you breathless.

Which is what happened to them.

The problem with that sort of thing is that it temporarily suspends all rational thought concerning some of the bigger issues. The fact that she was basically a visitor here and he was a permanent resident didn’t cross their minds until a few weeks before the school year ended. Which is when she approached me with this question:

Could their love survive the distance that would be between them?

I answered yes. Of course. Because love is all-powerful. The force that moves both world and man. Love conquers all.

That’s what I said then. And this is what I can say now—I didn’t really believe those words at the time. Not in general of course, but for them specifically. Because as powerful and conquering as love is, it is also an exceedingly fragile thing. Especially when you’re barely out of your teens.

So yes, I had my doubts. But I hid them as any good person should. After all, the general theory still holds—despite it all, love truly can hang on.

When I saw her this afternoon for the first time in four months, she was smiling. A good sign. And I noticed that she still wore her boyfriend’s class ring on her necklace. Another good sign. Yes, she said, they had made it through the summer. In fact, they made it with very little effort.

“So modern technology held you together?” I asked, remembering her prediction that emails and phone calls would never suffice.

“No,” she answered. “I mean yeah, sure. But no, too.”

I wrinkled my brow.

“We wanted to keep in touch,” she said. “I felt like I had to talk to him every day or I’d just go crazy. But honestly? I think if we had to go the whole summer without ever hearing from each other, we’d have been fine. I’d have come back here and we would have been just as much in love as before. Maybe more. Know what I mean?”

Yes. I did.

I knew husbands and wives who were at that moment separated by thousands of miles because one or both were serving our country. I had a friend who because of work was about to spend three months away from his family. And just mere months ago I attended the wedding of two people who had only seen one another four times in three years.

How can this happen? Beats me.

Is it any wonder why we have such a hard time describing and defining love? Faith seems easier—“the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” Yes. That’s it exactly. And hope has been defined as faith holding its hand out in the dark. Perfect.

But love? You can’t define love. Love is simply one of those things that must be experienced instead of pondered. It can be expressed but not explained, bent but not broken, and tested but not found wanting.

Which is why it’s the most wonderful thing in the world.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

Holding On (by Billy Coffey)

image courtesy of

This story was originally posted on What I Learned Today back in May of last year. Some of you who read it back then had asked for an update, which Billy has assured me will be forthcoming next Monday. Stay tuned…

But for now, here’s Part One:

I listen as she talks, nodding and smiling and saying “Uh-huh” every few words so she’ll know I’m getting ready to say something wise. The softball glove I had been restringing is now in front of me on the desk, put there so she knows she has my undivided attention. This is serious stuff. Especially when you’re twenty-two.

“So,” she asks, “what do you think?”

“I think you should ask your boyfriend,” I say.

“He says he’s not worried. We can still keep in touch.”

“He has a point.”

“But I told him that’s not the same.”

“You have a point, too,” I concede.

Then, she repeats: “So what do you think?”

A year’s worth of accumulated college stuff is packed into her battered Ford outside. It’s been a long year of studying and cramming and writing, enough to make even the most ardent student eager to turn tail and run home for the summer. But she’s stuck around, unwilling to leave because of what she will leave behind.

“It’s not that far, you know,” I offer.

“It’s Utah,” she says. “That’s a long way from Virginia.”

“Could be worse. You could live in California. That would add a few hundred miles.”

I smile, but she doesn’t smile back.

“Why did I have to fall for a guy here?” she asks.

I shrug. “The heart knows what it wants,” I answer. “Rational thought is sometimes left out of the equation.”

“But he’s here, and I’m going to be there.”

“But you’ll be back here in three months,” I say. “That’s not a big deal. And there are plenty of ways to keep in touch until then.”

“But I can’t see him,” she says. “Talking over the phone and emailing isn’t the same as seeing him.”

“Because you’re in love?”


The nod I give her isn’t a sarcastic one, but an acknowledgment of the truth. They are in love. Truly, madly, deeply in love. Love in its truest sense is not solely the domain of people who have been around for longer than twenty-two years. I see them on campus and I know. Love has a look.

“I don’t want to go,” she says. “I want to stay here. With him.”

“But you have to go, right?” I ask.

I get silence as an affirmative.

“And you want to know if your love for each other can withstand the distance between you?”

More silence.

She sits across from me, chewing on a fingernail. In the background the radio is playing Alan Jackson’s “Small Town Southern Man.” Fitting, I think, because that’s exactly what this city girl from Utah has found. And though I don’t know him well, I know enough to think she’d better hang on to him. Because it’s always been my opinion that those small town Southern men are worth keeping around. My own bias of course, since I’m one of them.

She breaks her silence and says, “So what do you think?”

“I think yes,” I say. “I think if you love him as much as he says he loves you, then distance is irrelevant. I think that wherever either of you are, the other one will always be. Faith is a powerful thing. Hope, too. But love? Nothing stops love. And if it’s as strong as you say it is, then that love will always be something you can stand under whenever the rain starts pouring.”

“We’ll be all right?” she asks.

“As long as the two of you don’t give up on each other.”

She smiles at that. She has hope now. Hope that life and circumstance do not have the last say when it comes to matters of the heart.

That in the end, love always holds on.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.


If you’d like to read another story by Billy Coffey, he’s guest posting over at Coffee with Marty today. While you’re over there, read a bit of Marty’s writing. He’s a great young writer, and you’ll be hearing more from him soon.