Tiny Love Stories: ‘I Rewrote My Identity’

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Send the Old Stuffie

I moved about 1,600 miles with four suitcases filled to the brim. No room for the old: my childhood stuffed animals, Arizona memorabilia or generalized anxiety disorder. As the plane departed for Tennessee, I rewrote my identity; an ideal list of traits, starting with “super chill,” ending with “very extroverted.” But that first night, as I unpacked boxes in an empty room, my chest tightened. Anxiety had slipped itself into my carry on. Between gasps of air, I texted my mother, “Mail Bearie NOW.” My search for independence is ongoing. It now exists amid new and old: new state, old stuffie. — Marissa Reaves

Songs of Ukraine

At 25, I buried pieces of my heart in Holosiivskyi Park, on Khreschatyk street, on the banks of the Dnipro river — haunts of my impressionable youth — and left Kyiv. For almost three decades, I’ve dreamed of the city’s cafeterias, cinemas and underground discos. And now, there’s the war. So, with a vengeance, I tap into the music of the country that nurtured me — folk music, patriotic lyrics, war songs; ballads about love, heroism, bravery. Every time I am dispirited about war, I keep Ukraine alive in my soul, one song at a time. — Malathi Raghavan

Posing Together As Always

She wore a dress to my college graduation. This was a first, as were the masks we donned in 2020. While the masks signaled a fearful global crisis, her dress spoke of power and joy. My sister unveiled her gender to our family gently — different in many ways from the brother my other sibling and I had known, but with the same, generous heart. The three of us posed dutifully for photos just as we had our whole childhood. Though six feet apart, we stretched our arms toward one another, reaching for togetherness — my brother, my sister and me. — Kate Nootenboom

Empty Pages

As I helped my son move out of the apartment he had shared with his girlfriend, I found a birthday gift she had left for me. On it, a note: “I don’t know if your mom will still want this.” I smoothed my hand over the rich texture of the journal cover, emblazoned with a vibrant astral theme. How well she knew me. A year has passed, yet the pages remain blank. As my only connection to her, I keep the journal pristine. Fresh with possibility. He broke up with her. I wish I didn’t have to. — Judy Harju Galliher

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