pile of envelopes
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

Have you ever experienced one of those freaky moments where you ransack the bins you have in storage, the ones that house collections from your previous life, with previous friends and lovers, looking to see what you considered worthy of saving? There’s the high school box, the college box, the “when I was a small child” box, the wedding box, the “I had my first kid box,” all jammed into a room that houses items you know desperately need to be dissected, tossed, or burned. (Incidentally, the poor second child and any who come after that are lucky if they even get a box). Nevertheless, the room smells of nostalgia–the paper diploma, the old beer cans, a dried up corsage from some homecoming dance.

I know what nostalgia smells like, and it wasn’t quite smelling like old, yellowed papers, moldy containers, and dried dust. All I could do during my freak out as I poured over my old boxes was wonder why the hell I didn’t save more things. Why did I toss so much of my old life away? What I saved was, well, not really worth saving at all.

For example, why didn’t I save old letters I’d received from relatives, cards from my grandmother, notes from a cousin in Jersey who forced me to call her “the lovely Aunt Ruthie?” Why didn’t I save cards from my parents and notes from high school boyfriends and friends that were either passed under desks as our hands brushed up against a still-moist clump of gum or folded into a football and flicked across the room? (Those were the days before computers and cellular phones, when people actually used pen and paper to communicate).

I have a very, very small collection of items from high school, which strikes me as odd considering I often refer to that time as “some of the best days of my life.” Ironic, really. Because what I need is some of that nostalgia as a memory trigger. I seem to be forgetting things as I’m aging, work a demanding, yet rewarding, job, and have a husband and two young kids who keep me extremely busy. Why didn’t I have the forethought to keep better documentation of my life to help me remember how great it was? The boxes should be as full as my life has been, shouldn’t they?

My husband can remember specific details of his childhood and teen years and recounts them with colorful, vivid description and stats, though his obsession with baseball accounts for most of the statistical references. He remembers who he saw at minor league games as a kid and, as he became a teenager, which player did what during the games he attended; it’s really quite remarkable. As for me, everything’s become one big, fuzzy high school/college/post-college/post-grad school/working-in-the-real-world/married/having kids blurry mess.

There were so many great letters I could have transcribed on this blog, including those from friends, high school sweethearts, a minor league ballplayer/friend who kindly took me to a sorority formal in college and who wrote to me from Peoria as he was starting his big-league career, letters from my grandparents, and quirky little notes and poetry that my friends and I scribbled and giggled over.

When my high school boyfriend and I broke up during my first year of college, I threw a scrapbook I made of us and the only box of collected ticket stubs, photographs, and love notes that reflected our relationship into my car and drove down the road to the enormous, green supermarket dumpster and tossed it in. I drove back to my dorm feeling victorious. Silly now, though; those letters could have inspired some pretty creative writing…maybe. Or perhaps I’d read through them and cringe and wonder how I (or he) could have written such mushy, pathetic garbage.

There’s a lot of junk in my basement. Would it have been that much of an inconvenience for the storage room to house one more box of paper letters and photographs? I stood there looking at the lack of a collection and asked myself why I chucked so much stuff.

It makes me wonder about our kids and future generations that will follow and what will happen now that letters have gone out of fashion and photographs are kept digitally. What will they keep? Emails? Texts? Will they scroll back through their Facebook pages with family gathered around and say…remember when?


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