Pieces of Me
(story by MIr from WouldaCouldaShoulda.com)
The irony isn't lost on me that I'm a compulsive blogger—with a deep need to discuss and remember all of my precious feeeeeeelings—yet I consider myself a fairly unsentimental person. But I don't see this two stances as conflicting; I am tremendously sentimental about emotions, but surprisingly unsentimental about stuff.
It wasn't always this way, of course. As a child and young adult I attached deep significance to plenty of things. I collected tickets and playbills from shows I'd seen or been in; I had a container dedicated to movie stubs; and for most of high school and college, I not only journaled, I kept every single note (high school) and letter (college) that I received. This was before everyone texted each other and sent emails and had blogs and Facebook, of course, because I am old. That meant I had multiple boxes full of correspondence, to the tune of about a dozen giant 3-ring binders that got boxed up and trucked to the next place every time I moved. (And I moved a lot, during and after college.)
On the rare occasions when I lost track of something I'd deemed important, I felt like the world was collapsing. In particular, I remember that after my step-grandfather died, my grandmother gave me the mezuzah charm he'd worn on a necklace. I was deeply moved that she'd given me something so important to him, and it made me feel better to have something of his as I grieved his passing. One day I walked a couple of miles to our local mall to do something (I don't recall if I was meeting friends or what; this was during my teenagerhood, when "hanging out at the mall" was the thing to do), and when I got home, I realized the mezuzah was gone. The loop at the top of it, that the chain went through, must've broken. I retraced my steps for hours, but I never found it. I was crushed. I felt like I'd betrayed Ira's memory. Really, it felt like losing him all over again.
The items about which I felt strongly weren't all that numerous, but those boxes of correspondence kept moving from house to house with me, even though I hadn't opened them for years. They went from one basement to another, and with each move I would open one, remove a binder, flip through the pages, and remember who I used to be.
I don't know how it happened; it wasn't a conscious thing, I don't think, but over time, objects loosened their hold on me. Maybe it was having kids, and realizing that the things that really mattered to me weren't ones that could be stuffed in boxes. Maybe it was watching some people I love struggle with hoarding tendencies. Maybe it was just part of my growing and changing and, ultimately, stepping into a very different life than the one I used to have.
When I remarried, I'm sure the process could've been more complicated, but I'm not sure how—my husband was selling his house in Georgia, we were buying a different house in Georgia, and I was trying to sell my house in New England and move myself and the kids. Most of my energy in those last days before the move went into trying to sustain some sort of normalcy for the kids and getting them through the end of the school year, and also keeping the house tidy for showings. Somehow, with 24 hours to go before the moving truck arrived, I still had a houseful of stuff to deal with, and quickly.
My husband came up to help—the last long trek he'd have to make to me—and he brought reinforcements. One of his brothers is a total workhorse; give him a task and he'd go get it done. And so it was probably inevitable that we ended up in the basement of the house I was about to leave, surrounded by boxes and miscellaneous stuff, trying to give my brother-in-law some direction.
I took a deep breath. "Everything on these shelves goes in the truck," I said. "The rest of it… let's separate out anything usable for Goodwill, and the rest can go in the trash." I went back upstairs ostensibly to resume packing elsewhere in the house, but really because I didn't want to see what was being thrown out. I'd just given him permission to chuck all of the history I'd been lugging around for decades.
We moved. I brought a lot of stuff, it's true, but there were three of us. Most of my "baggage" had been trashed, both literally and metaphorically. I felt great.
Every now and then, I feel a small pang. Maybe I'd like to have those journals from high school? Maybe those letters from long-ago loves would give me a chuckle if I still had them? But I don't.
I still have the memories, faded though they may be. And that's enough, I think, because I don't ever want to be that person who believes she's the sum of her stuff. It's a hard mentality to escape, in our culture. But someday, when I'm old, I want to be able to look back and say I had a rich and full life… and hopefully that won't include a house full of junk!
Are you sentimental about objects? Has your perspective changed with age, either way?
(read more Mir here. You'll be glad you did.)