Most of us have a lot of stuff. We’ve collected things along the way of life.
I’m wondering if we collect stuff to fill a void in our lives or is it merely for pleasure? I suppose it’s a little of both.
I spent the last week helping my parents sort through years of collecting and accumulating stuff. Included are numerous letters and cards, clothing and every treasure one can imagine. It can be very overwhelming but I’ve learned a few things during that time, although it was an arduous process. Most of the stuff that has been saved in their home has meaning, at least to them. Sure there are plenty of junk drawers, we all have at least one, loaded with stuff still as useless today as it was from my childhood- you never know when you might need that nail. But there is so much that touches a deep chord in ones heart strings. I have to be careful not to dismiss it as being meaningless junk- because honestly it is not.
My parents are sentimental saver. At times I thought it was ridiculous to save letters and cards for the last several decades but it showed and taught much about the past and how meaningful so many relationships were, relationships that I never really knew existed.
Weeding through the drawers we uncovered so many long, well written and thoughtful letters that expressed moments of joy and sadness. They spoke of ordinary life and of love and loss. There were letters from childhood friends who lost a child to illness and another in 9/11. There were thank you letters from friends to my mom for her many acts of deliberate kindness. There were multiple letters from her ‘Tante’s’ that she so loved and so many from her mom. Why do we hold on to such items? Letters that have likely not been read since they were first received and yet they linger in our drawers waiting to be read once more.
We are holding on to a memory, a moment in time when someone dear to us sat down and shared what was on their mind. It was a time of deep caring and consideration for others in a way that is so rarely expressed in our present day reality.
Times were different 20-30 years ago. It was costly to use the phone to make international calls. People even considered the cost of postage, so they wrote on special paper that was very thin and light so the message that needed to be transcribed could be sent without fear that it would cost too much. It was called airmail paper. I never consider a stamp. Sometimes I even put an extra stamp or two just to be sure there’s enough stamps, not even worrying that too much postage was added. These discovered letters were sent back and forth overseas with carefully consideration, not only for content but their weight and cost.
There were two letters that made the most impact on me. One letter my dad wrote to my mom when she was in Norway and he was still here in the states. He wrote in Norwegian to her. It may be the only letter he ever wrote to her. That sounds so strange, but is it really so strange? When was the last time I wrote a letter to my husband? Well, that one she saved. The other letter that was uncovered was one I wrote to my dad when I was around 12 years old. It was so sweet. I told him that I thought we should move to Norway. We were in Norway at the time and he hadn’t arrived yet. The letter states that we all decided that we wanted to move to Norway and I gave all the logical reasons as to why. That letter I saved.
It’s so easy to toss things in the recycle bin but it’s not without feeling a little sacrilegious or guilty when doing so. Knowing that these loved ones, from our past and probably long gone, once had a very significant role in our lives. By getting rid of these letters does not negate their meaning and value though. It was a chance to remember. Remember how important so many relationships were and how these loved ones truly touched and impacted our lives.
Maybe the process of weeding out a drawer full of letters really wasn’t too bad after all. It was a moment to refresh old memories and relive days gone by. Had we not taken the time to clear out an overcrowded drawer, it is unlikely that these memories would flood our minds once again!
It’s hard to let go but it is also hard and maybe not so healthy to stay in the past either. We need to remember the past but live for the future; making the days we have occupied with new memories of precious moments and once in a while reminisce and be grateful for all the experiences and the people that touched our lives. Some memories will be shared, some will be forgotten but nonetheless still important and quite meaningful.