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What We Leave Behind

January 3, 2018

Another Way for week of December 30, 2017

What We Leave Behind

So, what do you ship family members the day or week after Christmas or New Years and all the children have gone home?

Last year after Christmas, I saw my boss and his wife boxing up something in our shipping department when his wife said with some chagrin, “This is called shipping your kids the stuff they left at your house for Christmas.”

I blushed and drew my hands to my cheeks. “Oh dear, my mother is shipping stuff to me today, too.”

And I don’t need to remind you how old I am.

“So, it never ends,” said my boss.

This year we took a trip between Thanksgiving and Christmas to visit my mother. I took along my own breakfast cereal that I like for fiber reasons. Of course I left it in her cupboard! Mom has always willingly shipped (or saved for a future visit) our left-behinds.

And I don’t really mind doing that for my kids and grandkids either. If you show me a household where Mums and Dads willingly ship the left-behinds of their offspring, I’ll show you a family where the kids WANT to come home on holidays and at other times. Especially if they don’t hear too many reminders of “You never did remember to pick up all your stuff” or other snide, unhelpful remarks.

Taking care of what family members or other guests leave behind is just part of getting together. Perhaps more important is what feelings are left in our wake? Resentment? Exhaustion? Misunderstandings? Worse?

Read any advice column online or in the newspaper and it doesn’t take long to hear about the spiteful ways family members treat each other. Some of it might be in jest, but even good families with loving relationships who have good times together, accidentally push buttons (and sometimes not accidentally). Most of us know how to get under someone’s skin. Try to be mindful of what may be motivating someone’s behavior or putdowns—often insecurity, or feeling “less than.”

Other issues that may arise include whoever is in charge of cooking, often ends up feeling they have spent most of their time in the kitchen over holidays. I’m grateful for our large “great room” where the kitchen includes our dining and living room space as well. So at least the kitchen isn’t closed off. I’m grateful to our daughters who after a big meal, kick me out of the sink and say “Mom, we’ll clean up.” That did not exactly happen when they were ten.

Depending on how many bathrooms you have in your home, sharing bathroom space often requires extra grace. There we don’t want to leave behind reminders from our visit—or our personal shampoo!

What do we want to leave behind?

  • Memories of stories told and laughter shared
  • Good impressions and examples of manners, grace, and love
  • If sharp words have erupted, leave behind apologies and hugs
  • Leftovers so the chief cook won’t have to cook for the next two days
  • Rooms even neater than when we arrived
  • Beds stripped and blankets neatly folded at the edge of the bed
  • Small messy fingerprints left on windows are fine.

Finally, always go back for one more peek under beds, behind shower curtains, and in refrigerators for items you might have overlooked. And—one last hug or peck on the cheek. In our family, one outstanding memory is the time our oldest daughter had not had a chance to hug her 88-year-old grandfather goodbye when we left, because he was still in bed. A mile or two down the road, she said as much: she hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to Dad. We did go back—and she was very grateful, especially when Dad died eight months later.

I wish you and yours happy and blessed comings and goings in this New Year. 






What was the most important/crucial thing you’ve left behind on your travels?


Any tales of memories you’re glad you made? We’d love to hear your stories, whether sad or glad. 


There is still time to request your small 2018 lighthouse-themed monthly planning calendar, suitable for purse or pocket. Email me at or request by mail from Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22850.

Another Way is a column © by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. Columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.







  1. I love your thoughts about what TO leave behind!

  2. Those were almost an afterthought but I’m glad if they score! Thanks.

  3. When our grandchildren visit, one of the them always leaves something behind. I’ve heard that doing this means you want to return. I just call it forgetfulness.

    Before she died, Mother would plead with us girls to take stuff out of the attic. We had left ceramic vases, college textbooks and such. I am glad my sister Janice left a special sociology notebook and unearthed it when she and I were sorting things before Mom’s house sale. In it I found a key to a question I have carried most of my adult life. My memoir draft reveals the secret which you probably have discovered.

    I like your “leaving behind” list, including the tiny fingerprints. And your open floor plan view, much like ours. Happy New Year, Melodie!

    • Usually our kids are in such a scramble to leave, and they are sorting out their belongings from their sisters and children and vice versa, and their foods are mixed into my refrigerator supply, so it will be an amazing day when nothing is forgotten!!

      I haven’t found that secret yet in your memoir draft! Gotta keep reading.

      And yes, I’m grateful to my husband for his open floor plan idea when we built back in 2007, even though sometimes the TV can take over the space and we have to juggle that!!

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