Ever since the fire, I have felt horrible guilt.

I have always been a selfish person. I love for people to give me presents; I love to own things. When I was younger I started to recognize ways in which I could manipulate people into giving me stuff…and I used them. Later in life I decided to stop such behavior, but now I have trouble telling if people are giving me things because they came up with the idea and they wanted to give something to me, or if I have subconsciously manipulated them into it.

There were so many things in the apartment that were precious to other people. Perhaps more precious to them than they were to me. Among them was a bookshelf my mother’s grandfather built by hand. I’d been using it in my bedroom back home, and when I moved here, we brought it along. My mother was surprised to see it when we were unpacking. “I didn’t know you were taking this,” she said. I hadn’t even thought about it. I tried to get her to take it back home with her, but she said for me to keep it.

Now it’s gone.

My grandmother had a hope chest when she was a girl. It was kept hidden away in one of the rooms of her mother’s house; she wasn’t allowed to use it. When she moved out initially, she was living at the Y and didn’t have a place to put it…and when she got married, settled down in a house and started having children, her mother told her she didn’t want the kids to mess it up. Grandma never got to have her hope chest.

When I moved to Georgia, many years after my great-grandmother passed away, Grandma had the hope chest brought to my parents’ house from the farm and gave it to me. Beautiful, heavy, very old, it was sturdy enough to use as a bench, which I did, in the bedroom of our apartment.

Now it’s gone.

My mother lets me go through things in the house to pick out stuff to keep every now and then, so I’ll have a little bit of home even when I’m away. One of those things was an old mug tree that she used to have out on the counter in the kitchen, but which ended up stored away in the pantry to make more space. “Take good care of this,” Mom said wistfully. It was one of her very first pieces of “furniture” in her very first apartment when she moved down to Lexington after nursing school.

Now it’s gone.

When we first got married, my Aunt Bev very generously offered to buy Sean and me either a bed or a dining room table, something that we needed. We had Sean’s futon, so I opted for a table. Aunt Bev asked me to go through the IKEA website and pick something. I did, and decided I didn’t like any of it, and went looking around other stores. Finally I saved pictures from other websites of dining sets I liked, and sent those to her with the question, “Does IKEA have anything like this?” The picture for one of the sets, which cost at least double what I think Bev was expecting to send, had the filename “JCPenney-myfavorite.jpg” (or something similar). Bev wrote back, “Please send me a link to the set from JC Penney. It is a lovely choice.” I sent her a smarmy letter saying I hadn’t intended for her to actually buy one of my examples. But I also sent her the link in that letter…and she bought me that set, despite the price. This incident was the point at which I really started to hate myself for my manipulations.

And now it’s gone.

Cheryl loaned me quite a few Christmas decorations over the years, and I stored them in our hall closet. I had two porcelain Santas, a full set of Christmas dishes, two Santa stocking holders, and two stockings…the original stockings from when Sean was growing up.

Now they’re gone.

There are so many things that now I feel like I shouldn’t have even owned. And they were all destroyed. Why was I so selfish? Why did I want to own all that stuff? Now, thanks to me, none of it exists anymore.