I've been going through boxes of old letters, cards, and photographs. Why? Because my husband wants more room in the garage. So I have found myself sitting for hours, looking through all these things, reminiscing about the past.
The boxes were up in the attic, but it was my husband's idea to try to clear out clutter, so he brought some of the boxes down from the attic and put them in the garage. They sat there for several months. Finally, on the Fourth of July, he prodded me to get started going through them.
I don't have any children, and I don't think any of my nieces or nephews would be interested in going through this stuff. I figure, I'm making it easier on Wayne or whoever has the job of cleaning out the house after I die, so I'm throwing stuff out.
I've given away all my work clothes. It's been almost three years since I've retired, and I haven't worn one of my "work outfits" once in all that time, so if I don't need them, I want to give them to someone else who can use them. It's been very cathartic. I've been giving stuff away since my 50's. I gave my niece and nephew so much stuff, they asked me, "Aunt Debbie, are you dying?"
My mom started giving stuff away in her 60's. It's funny. You don't have much when you first start out on your own, and then you accumulate things along the way. Finally, you get to the point that you realize you don't need all this stuff.
I think Hurricane Katrina emphasized that point to me. I had friends who lost everything in the storm. Afterwards, I didn't want to buy anything. "What's the point?" I thought. It's just going to be taken away in the storm.
At this stage of my life, I'm streamlining. If I have something and I'm not using it, I want to give it away to someone who can.
Which brings me back to the boxes of cards, letters, and photographs....I can't just throw out the letters and cards without reading them. So that's what I've been doing for the past few days. I'm touched by all the sentiments expressed in the letters and cards. I cannot bring myself to throw the photographs away. When I die, someone is going to find all these pictures and wonder who these people are, and who are all the babies. I've written on the back of the photos, but still, whoever is going to be looking at these pictures will wonder.....
At times, I've wanted to bust out crying as I'm reading the letters. So many emotions...
My mom was so funny, and it all comes back to me as I read her letters. She loved jokes, and she passed on her sense of humor to me. I used to give my students extra points if they got up in front of the class and told jokes. I did that to give them confidence and to prepare them for having to speak in public. I told them, "The jokes have to be clean - I'm sharing them with my mom." My mom loved all those jokes. She'd enclose cartoons when she wrote to me, along with pictures she thought I'd like.
It was sad reading through the letters, how many of the letter writers have died: my mom, my dad, Wayne's mom, Auntie Lil, my cousin, Richie, Auntie Esther, my friend from work, James Miller, my friend, Cormel, who showed me how to turn on the computer(!), Jimmy McGeehee, the Youth for Christ leader... I've lost touch with some of the people, and I don't even know if some of them are still alive.
I have lots of letter from students I taught at college. They were full of praise and make me think I wasn't as good as they thought I was, but it's nice to read anyway. Some of my students wrote to let me know what jobs they had, when they got married, when they had babies, what graduate schools they were attending. There were letters from fellow professors/colleagues, telling me the latest news in the department and in their lives.
I have thank you letters from nieces and nephews - accompanied by pictures they drew for me. So many of the letters were from my cousins, one in particular with whom I've been corresponding since I was about 7 years old. We used to say that we were cousins who were separated at birth because we were so much on the same wavelength.
There were Christmas letters from friends and family accompanied by pictures, and I could see their children growing before my eyes. I don't know why I've lost touch with so many of them. I even kept the cards marked, "Return to Sender" because they'd moved without leaving a forwarding address. When I opened those cards, I could read the first Christmas letter I'd ever composed.
There were condolence cards from friends who wrote consoling words when my "autistic" cat, Minimax, died. There were thank you notes of all sorts. There were letters from my friends I corresponded with on a regular basis.
And then there were the cards Wayne and I sent each other through the years: Valentine's Day cards, Christmas cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, just because cards....
All those cards, letters, and photographs mean something to me, but I will not be here forever, so I am keeping the memories, and throwing out the material...except for the pictures. Let whoever comes upon them wonder.....