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Sentimental Saturday: Cleaning Out Old Memories

28459373_sThe summer after I graduated from college my sister and I were in a Goodwill store looking for clothes and books when I discovered two old fashioned suitcases. One is an army suitcase, metal and gray; the other is a fancy hard suitcase that I imagined Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald throwing on some Paris-bound European train. I bought them for $3 before I owned plates or silverware. Even though I’ve sold off nearly all of my belongings over the years, the suitcases have stuck around because they hold my sentimentia: the paperwork, letters, receipts and proof of entertainment of my early twenties.

This morning with a big burst of spring-cleaning fever I dove into one of the suitcases. What I had not anticipated was a treasure trove of highly selective items. I’ve pruned so many times that the box was a stroll down memory lane that made me glad to be sentimental.

I found our first grocery receipt in Maine the day after we moved in, followed closely by the receipt for bagels and Danish on moving day from the little market across the street from my first apartment. I found old love letters from my husband in the early days of our relationships and some of the best love letters from other exes that I still can’t quite release.

I found all the receipts for all the housekeeping items I bought right out of college as I was setting up my first home. A couple of prints we still have that I love dearly, two sets of dishware, dishcloths and glassware. I found my first paycheck for my first real job.

I found old cards from loved ones, pictures (real ones printed out) from a friend’s wedding, with her grandmother (who passed away this winter) watching over us as we made bouquets. I found laughable pictures from my husband’s college graduation when my back had gone out and my incredibly skinny body is contoured sideways and forward in my beautiful summer dress.

Each shred of paper was a whole flash of memories. So many apology notes from my husband for fights we had long since forgotten about, but nevertheless took some time this morning to hash out.

At the end of the memory session I put 2/3 of the stuff back in the suitcase and pushed it back into its crook beside my desk. I want all that stuff. I want to know how much milk cost when we first moved to Maine. I want to remember the dinner I invited a near stranger to go to because I wanted to become her friend. To outside eyes it is all a box of unexplained slips of time. But those formative years were crucial in finding out who I would be and what I would want from life.

It was fun to see the themes: writing, dance, health, community, communication. I did summon up a good deal of scrap paper and recycling, but that feels like the least of today’s accomplishments. I’ve taken a morning to explore my past and the path that led me here. I am thankful for all the kind words, honesty and guidance I received during all of that time of struggle. What a beautiful thing to look through memories of old times and see all the joy from that time, when I usually just remember the sorrow. We chose to hold on to the physical reminders of beauty in life and let go of the horrors. I see now that we remember the horrors we need to without any paperwork, but it is for the joy that we need reminding.

Copyright: liligraphie / 123RF Stock Photo

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