Barb’s Box of Stuff

When you’re looking at downsizing your living quarters you have to make some tough decisions about what you’ll be getting rid of.

In a far back corner of my closet there is a box of stuff I’ve saved for over fifteen years.  Things I kept when we moved to our current house and have never looked at since.  I figured one day, maybe if I was sick or needed entertainment or had the time I’d go through it.  Read the old cards and letters, see exactly what was in there.  Evidently, I am healthy, well entertained and never made or had the time.

Until today when I was feeling particularly down, laughing and crying over the irony of life, wondering how I got where I am, why I often feel like such a colossal failure and why everything I touch turns to sh*!.  Screw it.  I’m in no mood to do anything else.  I’ll see what’s in that box.

On the very top were things I’d kept from my son’s early years.  Almost the first thing I pulled out was a little booklet he’d made for me called Super Mom.  It’s from 1993, so he would have been eleven years old.  I got a good chuckle out of what he’d written.  I found another Mother’s Day tribute.  He mentions my patience more than once in his writings about me.  I don’t recall being patient at all and never thought of myself as a patient person.  I’m glad he thinks I was.

I keet pulling items out of the box.  Many of his childish drawings and school papers.  Cards for birthdays from friends, some of whom I haven’t heard from in years. 

In a manila envelope I discover receipts from stores long out of business, doctor appointment cards from 1979.  A baby spoon.  A rosary.  A silver lighter from Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips (I used to work there).  Broken shells.  Bits and pieces of my life reflected in notes from old flames, matchbooks from restaurants, ticket stubs.  A two-dollar bill; a one-dollar bill.  Five pennies.  Why did I keep these things?  Why did I think they were important?

Seeing my son’s childhood musings about his mother cheered me up and made me chuckle.  Some of the cards from others made me sad.  They reminded me of lost relationships, people who passed through my life and who are no longer a part of it.  Significant to me for a time, but also fleeting, some of whom I barely remember.  Some I will never forget.

I’m not one to dwell on history.  It may be interesting.  There may be something we can learn from it.  But once we’ve learned the lessons, is there any reason to hang on to it?  The truth is, after fifteen years I could have chucked that entire box and never missed it.  I couldn’t recall what I’d put there exactly, except a bunch of old stuff.  I knew if I started going through it I’d have a harder time throwing any of it away.  Because once I knew what was there, I’d have to make decisions about its importance to me now.

I go back to digging through the box and things go from sublime to ridiculous.  Why did I keep a bunch of coupons that expired in 1984?  A belated wedding card I never sent?  Who was it for?  Interestingly it only cost a dollar.  Every other time I dig into the box I hear a tinkle of music from a long-ago card that still has something to say.

I’ve unearthed pictures of my husband and infant son at the beach.  Probably the last time my husband was at the beach.  Each time I pull out a card from my husband I start to think, oh, maybe he did/does love me.  Because as the years grind on, some days you sort of forget that, but there it is.  He never missed a birthday, an anniversary, a Mother’s Day or Christmas.  Never forgot.  Those cards are like him saying, “Remember me?  I’m the one who’s been here for the last thirty-two years.”

I discover I’ve saved probably every card or letter my best friend ever sent me.  I know how important she is to me, but I’m reminded I’m equally important to her. 

Mostly what the stuff in my box teaches me is a lesson about life.  The ways we give away pieces of ourselves to others.  The bits and pieces they give to us.  Sometimes they fade away into memories.  Other times they remind us what’s still important. 

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