Friday, April 17, 2009

Keepsakes and Other Junk

I am not big on keepsakes. I don't need stuff to remind me of special places or loved ones. I have no desire to display meaningless knick-knacks. I hate clutter. I mean, I absolutely despise, abhor, and in all other ways detest clutter. (You might not be able to tell by looking at my house, but that's why I have a wide selection of happy drugs at my disposal, so at any given time I can make it all go away. LOL. You know I'm only kidding. . . mostly.)

The only keepsakes I really enjoy are photographs. I am currently working on a way to print and display some of the thousands of photographs of my children and fun family events. I gave up trying to print them out and put them in albums when Hope was about 2 and Joy was a baby. I was overwhelmed not only by parenting, but also by how maddeningly easy it was to take bazillions of pictures of my children and edit them with a digital camera.

Aside from those precious memories, I have a pretty light hold on material things. Strangely, I used to be a major packrat. I had the luxury of living in the same house for most of my pre-adult life. So I saved everything that meant anything to me. And I mean E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. I saved every single note that anyone wrote to me in jr. high and high school. I never actually broke the rule, "No passing notes in class." My friends and I cleverly found a way around that - we passed notes between classes and we only read them during class. Ha! Take that, Mr. Johnson!

I saved every single newspaper clipping that had a photo or a mention of myself or anyone I've ever known. I had saved a paper pom-pom from an unknown sporting event. Tons of buttons with slogans like "Look at me! I'm a Cheerleader" and "Blue and Gold is Really Green When You Mix Them Together". I even saved some raisins from a food fight I had with a high school teacher. I saved a test on which I scored a deliberate F because I was about to graduate and figured it didn't really matter any more. Also, I had always been a model student, so I wanted to experience the thrill of rebellion just once.

I stopped being a packrat when I became a college-bound vagabond, moving a minimum of 2 times per year for the next 8 years: from dorm to apartment to house to third-world country to apartment to house, etc. But all the things I ever saved before leaving home were neatly packed away in my parents' attic, because my mom didn't want to throw out anything that she thought I might want. While I appreciate her consideration, now I have to dig through the vast array of boxes in her attic to determine if any of the stuff I saved has "antique" quality. For the past 21 years the boxes have lived in my parents' attic - it never seemed right to remove them from their loving home. Now and then, I have dared to delve into a box or two, looking for something specific or trying to weed out some of the junk. About 15 years ago, I finally parted with the crumpled high school notes because I finally came to this realization: "Who cares???" 10 years ago, I threw away a corsage that had turned to dust. 5 years ago, I rescued a few collectible dolls that I wanted to eventually pass on to my girls. But I never wanted to take the whole kit and caboodle with me while I was a wayfarer, not yet settled in a permanent home. Now I've been married 12 years, and we have a mortgage, so I guess that's a semi-permanent situation. (To avoid confusion, the house is semi-permanent; the marriage is forever!) It's about time that I inherit the rest of my junk.

As I'm spending time at my parents' house, I've been looking through boxes and boxes of stuff/junk/"keepsakes". And I was quite surprised to learn that there are still things that I can't quite let go of. Maybe it's because all this slightly cool stuff just came back into my life and I'm not ready to part with it just yet.

There are tons of paper: certificates that say I "participated" in English, Math, Social Studies, Science, and Band. It doesn't mention any honors or excellence or achievement. . . .just that I. . . . participated. Um, yeah, that's pretty much a given since I actually met the requirements for graduation. Although I do still have nightmares that I have to go back to high school and take one more class because it was just discovered (after 21 years) that I didn't really graduate from high school because I missed 3 credits of Home Ec. Hmm, maybe I better hang on to those.

There are cheesy, mimeographed copies of awards ceremonies ranging from my induction into the National Honor Society (which was ironically, a crappy photocopy pasted to a folded piece of construction paper) to the distinguished award for perfect attendance during the first quarter of the 1985-86 school year.

Among my more coveted awards: a genuine imitation gold-plated trophy that I won for a Citizenship Essay Contest in 4th grade AND a congratulatory note with a genuine stamped signature from none other than President Jimmy Carter. A certificate dated April 14, 1984 certifying that I'm a Math Expert. Impressive, huh? An award from when I took first place in the district-wide spelling bee in 8th grade, which was a bitter-sweet victory, since I had to choose between participating in the spelling competition and trying out for 8th grade basketball cheerleading.

What stuff should I really keep? All those silly certificates? For the most part, I actually remember that I went to high school. I'm pretty certain that I was a cheerleader since I now have permanent nerve damage in my legs and feet from wearing a cheerleading skirt to school even when the temperature dropped to 50 below zero. Do I need a certificate to prove that I did? What if someone approaches me and says, "Provide proof that you were actually on the forensics team, or I will pluck all your nose hairs out." Then, it might be handy to have them around, but under such duress, I might have trouble remembering in which of the 12 boxes in my dark, spider-infested basement they are stored.

I have hundreds of letters from penpal with whom I corresponded for over 20 years. I met her the day before I started kindergarten and we kept writing to each other well into college. Pure nostalgia, for sure, as I'm absolutely certain I will never read them all again. I could probably keep about 5 letters and toss the rest. But what if my ex-penpal ever becomes famous? I could probably make a load of cash on eBay by selling her letters.

I have a beautiful glass from my Junior Prom - a wine glass. What were we, on the prom committee, thinking? A wine glass as a memento for a dance that was planned by and attended by 17-year-olds? And what were we drinking? Kool-aid? Nonetheless it is stashed away in a box with plenty of tissue paper to protect it.

How is it that I have a hard time letting go of paltry high school mementos? Yet I have seriously considered selling my wedding dress on eBay. (I have no contempt whatsoever for my wedding dress or my marriage, it just seems impractical to keep something I will never wear again, my children will never wear, and was purchased second-hand to begin with. I have many, many smaller, less closet-space-consuming items by which to remember my wonderful wedding day.)

Do I want to be continually reminded of high school, or would it be better to let some memories fade into oblivion? I haven't thought about this stuff in over 20 years, so I probably won't miss it if I pitch it all. But the trash - or a burning ceremony, in the case of a photo of me with my ex-boyfriend - seems so final. Yet, it seems a little ludicrous to me to keep stuff in cardboard boxes, just wasting space, until decide I'd like drag it out and subject some unwilling viewer to all my high school keepsakes?

I also discovered a box with wedding keepsakes. Of course, I want some of those things. But do I really need to save 100 extra napkins with mine & Al's name embossed on them? Hey, this process is having some benefit. I'm starting to come up with solutions: every year on our anniversary, my husband and I can use those napkins for our anniversary dinner.

And on April 27th every year, in commemoration of my Junior Prom, I will use that beautiful Prom glass to get tanked.


  1. My wife is a packrat. She gets it from her father. We once helped him move, and I found a 30 year old condom in his desk. I thanked him for not using it.

  2. Do you know why I love you and your blog so freakin' much? You make ME feel normal!!! Hahaha... only 8 days til the wine glass gets put to good use. :)


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