Ever since we had to clean out my grandmother's house, I've had ephemera on the brain. Going through countess amounts of old birthday cards and notes and notebooks was so special and amazing, but also really, really sad. It made the end of a life feel so much more real to me. In the past few months, I've found myself resisting the urge to save things. I've thrown out notes and postcards from friends, that I had lying around for a while, always with the image of me sitting on the floor in my grandmother's basement surrounded by these same kinds of things, just 30 and 40 years older, in my mind. I would justify it by thinking, "I saw this, enjoyed it in the moment, and now I can throw it away. It isn't meant to be saved."
Then last night, Alex was looking for a letter that was special to him. It was partially for work, which is why he thought to look for it, but also the kind of thing you know you should save. We found the envelope it came in, but no letter.
And I felt really, really sad about that.
This overwhelming sadness just overcame me at the idea that we had somehow managed to loose this special letter. This little thing on paper. I actually felt so sad about it that I had to lie down. The feeling was really overwhelming me. And while I was lying in bed, petting Queenie and periodically sighing, I realized that when I get this feeling, it probably means I have something to blog about. Which means I have something to talk about. So I started talking, and then I got out my laptop.
When we started looking for the letter, I remembered two boxes that we keep in our storage space where I kept things of that sort. I had forgotten about those boxes and probably haven't saved anything in them for a few years. Going through them, we still didn't find the letter, but I found so many things I had just plain forgotten about. A valentine's card from Alex, birthday cards from my parents, a note from my grandmother with a comic about being a librarian cut out of the newspaper attached to it. All of these wonderful things! And I suddenly felt happy that I had saved all of them, but also sad about all of the things I hadn't saved. Sad about the letter and even and about the past being over. I know, that one is dark. Alex says that I'm a positive person who secretly says really dark things some times, and that would be one of them.
I think it's good that I haven't saved EVERYTHING. Alex pointed out that there are periods of his life that he just doesn't have any physical record of. And because of that, he has the story of his life in his mind. The one he chooses to remember without the reality of objects getting in the way. But memory is so fleeting. I feel like I can't remember anything! I never would have remembered the Valentine's card that I found from Alex on my own, and it was only five years ago! Finding that card brought me joy. But then what? I put it back in the messy box, on top of other piece of paper, and put it back upstairs where it belongs. How strange, don't you think?
Maybe it's the librarian in me that's fascinated with saving things that could easily be thrown away, but I'm also burdened by it. Burdened by the idea of having too much stuff, of not remembering my life fully until all of the sudden it's over and my loved ones have to figure out what to do with all of my things.
Do you have a box or two like I do, readers? Or do you only save a select few things? Both ways of life make me feel overwhelmed and sad and happy all at the same time. Part of me thinks I should start saving again, but another part of me feels like I need to be really selective about it. I'm only 30! How many boxes am I going to accrue in my life? I wish I could be zen about "stuff" but there's nothing like holding an old envelope in your hands, seeing familiar handwriting and reading thoughtful words that someone took the time to write just for you. That's special. And yet, maybe it was never meant to last for more than a day.