Thursday, August 2, 2012

Things lasting no more than a day

























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.

11 comments:

  1. This is beautiful. Being torn between keeping things and getting rid of them is also something I struggle with. I moved around a lot growing up, meaning that we didn't hang on to things that much, and partly that makes me sad, as I think that it is lovely to have those little reminders. Also though, the other thing about moving around a lot is that I never really lived close to my extended family. Little keepsakes and reminders are now all I have of some of my grandparents, because I don't have that many memories of them. HOWEVER, my grandma is a crazy hoarder who has rooms full of boxes of stuff and who I am certain has never thrown anything away. So I look at her and I think "I don't want to be like that." So yes, it is a delicate balance.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Jessica Anne. Yes, delicate balance indeed.

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  2. Just wait...if you end up having children,think about what it will feel like when you have to throw away some of their artwork, because there will be thousands of pieces of it and you cannot save it all even if you want to. I save all my husband's and children's letters and cards. I save thank you notes that have meaningful messages. Now that there is email, hand-written letters are more scarce, so it is hard for me to throw things like that away. Other than that, I toss it. I do have a bit of a hoarding problem with my kids' school work. I love the old daily writing journals. I love to see the early formation of their letters on the page and what they wrote about. I figure they'll either love finding it when I'm older or they'll just toss it themselves, but for me it represents a time in their past I'm just not ready to discard.

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    1. I totally had that thought about kids while writing this post! Thanks for your comment, as always :)

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  3. I recently deleted my FB account, and right after I realized that I forgot to save all the photos I took of my kid's drawings that I would post. I took the photos so that I could remember them forever without having to keep the hard copy. So sad! I can't believe I did that.

    Years ago, after my Nana passed, I made sure my mom kept aside one special thing. A pillowcase. Knowing that I could someday lose it, I had it tattooed as a sleeve on my arm. Not for everyone, I know! But we all find a way to remember the material objects that have meaning and bring feelings of happiness.

    We moved about a month ago. I knew we couldn't take every little thing, so I did photograph a lot of stuff. Stuffed animals and dolls from my childhood, books, etc. those things were in storage forever. I forgot I even still had them, so it actually felt good to take the photos. Now I can look at them whenever I want and I don't have to dig them out of storage!

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    1. Wow, taking pictures is a great idea. Thanks Amie! I'm also into the tattoo idea. Not for me, but I really like the idea :) Thanks for your comment!

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  4. It's a tricky balance but one I think I've found throughout the years. I have a few select cards from grandparents that I keep and cherish just to feel something they have touched before and to see their handwriting, but many things are quickly tossed into the recycle bins these days. The only letters and cards I keep without exception are those from my love. I have a special metal box he once gifted me and keep it on one of our bookshelves and plan to keep filling it with his words throughout the years. Not only do I want to look back on it, but I could imagine our children looking back on these words some day and being able to see our love from a different angle.

    Really it's all so complicated, choosing what to keep and what to shed, and can be such an emotional thing.

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  5. We really are the exact same person...

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  6. You're soo right, this topic plagues my thoughts a lot. I hate to be burdened but also instinctively save every ticket stub and doodah. Getting emotionally attached to things is part of life I guess.

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  7. Yes! I save things. And not even just memorable things, but just things. "Just in case." The just in case things are the most burdensome because I almost never need them, and when I do, I've forgotten about them and buy new ones. Anyway, my need to hold on to things comes from my dad and after he died last year, I am so glad I got that trait from him. He had so many keepsakes that he had tucked away that I so thoroughly enjoyed going through. Some I'd seen before as a kid and some I hadn't, but all so special. My favorite being a stack of letters that he wrote home when he was in the Air Force in the 60s that my grandmother kept. So keep your letters and your special memories! They'll so be worth it some day.

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