“Oh my gosh. I don’t want to open that box.”
Moving furniture and books and clothing is easy. It’s moving memories that is hard.
I am going through the last of my boxes. I used to say I was not a packrat. I thought I was more like my mother than my dad. My dad might tuck a piece of wood away, thinking it would find a use someday. My mother would be of the opinion that it’s easier to buy a board when (and if) it was needed. Generally, it wasn’t.
This approach keeps my parents’ house very tidy -- with the possible exception of one small room in the basement where my dad keeps his wood collection.
It turns out, I am not at all like my mother.
I have filed things away that will never find any purpose whatsoever other than to remind me of things I did and used to care about that I no longer do. For the last few days, I’ve been emptying the box.
Photos from when we used to take real photos, letters from people who cared about me, certificates indicating I accomplished something or another, reviews that mentioned my name, currency from foreign countries I will never visit again, 100+-year-old spectacles (why?), a lovely handheld fan my former mother-in-law gave me, clever things I wrote when I was in the fifth grade (really?), recipes in my grandmother’s handwriting, and even (I am embarrassed to admit) my old teddy bear.
My teddy bear feels crunchy. His exterior is badly corroded by time, I can’t imagine what has happened to his insides.
All of it is in the last box, waiting to be emptied.
Some of it is easy to understand wanting to hang onto. I am scanning some of the photos and my grandmother’s recipes, and they will move onto the great cloud in the sky. (That is where I imagine the cloud, not being savvy with computer matters.) They will likely get no more attention on the cloud than they did in the box, but they will gather less dust and -- most importantly -- they won’t need to be moved.
But still I worry that some of this -- some potshard from my past -- will be needed. It will be necessary to remember something I did or someone I knew or something that was important to me and, if I lose it, I will lose some part of myself.
The fact that this is nonsense does not lessen the feeling.
I’ve heard the mantra that we should keep only what “sparks joy,” and I cannot claim that anything in that box is sparking joy. In fact, the existence of that box is causing me a fair amount of angst.
Instead, I ask myself, “Would I experience great pain if I threw this away?”
Generally, the answer is, “No,” and the item is tossed. But sometimes, for no logical reason, I hold something in my hand, and I feel I need it. I need the fan my mother-in-law gave me, I need those 100+-year-old spectacles and, yes, it is possible that I might still need my teddy bear -- even though he has gone all crunchy on me. Heck, I’ve gotten a little crunchy myself.
It’s not a perfect system. But the contents of the box are shrinking and the guilt for hanging onto so much stuff is dissolving, and I feel a sense of satisfaction, sending one after another of my grandmother’s recipes through the scanner.
I just found her recipe for chocolate frosting. I’m going to make it sometime soon.
Till next time,
Carrie Classon’s memoir is called, “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.
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