Author’s Note: I wrote this post this past weekend. Luckily, a good sleep was enough to settle the dust I stirred up!
It’s 11 pm and I need to go to sleep because I am the mother of a teething toddler and perpetually sleep-deprived. But I can’t. Not without unburdening my thoughts on what may or may not end up as a blog post but will certainly give my mind and hopefully, my spirit, a chance to seek some balance.
My family is in town, visiting for a few days for my daughter’s 2ndbirthday, and as my mother had the means (a large vehicle) and the opportunity to unload some of my junk that has been cluttering up her attic for years, she took it! This means some good things, like my daughter inheriting my Flexible Flyer sled and my Little’s doll and miniature furniture collection. It means I now get to peek at my long stowed away wedding dress, which I love. It also means I am faced with a conundrum about what the heck one does with one’s high school letter jacket which is still in perfectly good condition, when one is in one’s mid-thirties and should not even attempt to masquerade as a high-schooler by wearing said jacket any longer. Especially when one has plucked a white eyebrow hair off of one’s forehead earlier in the day. Hmm. If you kind readers have any thoughts about that one, feel free to let me know.
The real gem of the collection of stuff I’d forgotten in my mother’s attic, was a small file box, filled to the brim with stuff from a slightly (but not much) later date: my college years. Inside, I found the evidence of that period of my life. Here is what I found:
*Paystubs from my first job at the local library during high school
*High school academic records and plans
*My Amateur Radio log given to me by my father
*A paper where my family and friends had written positive comments about me for a Girl Scout project
*Recommendation letters for college, for scholarships (one writer even had offered to adopt me, “should the need arise”!?
*Notations to my college record during the (I believe it was) five times I changed my major
*A wad of “Congratulations, you made the Dean’s list” letters from various academic advisors (those were recycled)
*Bank statements from my high school and college bank accounts that basically told me how broke I had been
*Student loan paperwork (ah, the beginning of the never-ending bills…)
*Award letters from Honors Societies I can’t remember the names of without the paperwork; copies of high school and college grade reports; scholarship and award letters, all of which made me feel for a time, successful, but that I now know means absolutely nothing about success in the “real world”
*Letters from three college roommates (two of which were introductory letters as I roomed “blind”) from women who have proven to be life-long friends; one is among my closest friends
*The first letter I ever received from a man I might have married
*Cards from three grandparents, three family friends, and one friend who are now all deceased
*A note from my beloved late grandmother with three pressed fallen leaves that she wanted to share with me
*A personality profile that is a little too spot on, which pointed out flaws I didn’t understand in my twenties but now comprehend painfully well
*Pictures of the first family trip I took with my mother and sisters after my parents divorced
*The first card I ever received from my in-laws when I still called them “Mr. and Mrs.”
*Some absolutely awful and promptly discarded (no, my biographers will NOT get their hands on these someday, THANK you very much) fledgling poems, probably written in middle school
Basically, that innocuous looking little file box was an emotional minefield. I recycled about a third of it; I plan to shred another third; but the last third, I returned back to the little black box to deal with another day. I just don’t know what to do with it all. Where do you put the things that make you up? How do you file them or keep them either in paper or memory? I wonder about the wisdom of keeping objects from the past to revisit and dredge up stories that both delight and haunt me. Is the laughter I got from reading the first words my dear friend ever said to me enough to counteract the overwhelming loss I confronted seeing the signatures of my dead loved ones? Does the stack of awards and good grade reports contribute anything to who I am, to the successes and failures of my adult life? What of the paths I once began, but since abandoned for one reason or another; what do I do with the dangling ends? I have an additional tote full of memories still waiting for me in my mother’s attic. Part of me wonders if I should just have her dump the lot, unopened, or if confronting my past will help open up places I’ve closed off in my heart so that I may come to terms with them, for better or worse, embracing my life with all its successes and failures, with all the losses and with all the still enduring friendships. I wonder if I’m strong enough yet to accept myself, my life, in its entirety, or if I keep the things I store away to remind me I have emotional work yet to do, feelings to integrate, and a sense of balance and peace to achieve. I may not know the answer for many decades, when I again pull out my memory boxes and dive in.
Linking up with Shell’s Things I Can’t Say for