I’m sitting here in my dad’s office, looking around at all the binders, and thinking about all the stuff I’ve run into. For example, I’ve found a ledger detailing his daily living expenses between 1953 and 1960. Some examples:
Mar 18 1953: 1 pr White Sneakers (Sears Roebuck): $3.74
July 10 1953: 1 pr Black Pedal Pushers: $2.98
Apr 30 1957: 1 Cashmere Sweater: $16.59
Nov 11 1955: 1 21″ TV Set: $159.95
I’ve found family holiday letters dating back to 1980. I’ve found the correspondence between my father and his 1st wives’ friends relating to her hospitalization and their divorce. Of course, I’ve got tax files for his accounting firm dating back to the mid-1980s. I’ve got loads of Navy pictures and recollections, and of course, loads and loads of Al Jolson memorabilia. I’ve written before about the mini-Office Depot. Looking in the supply closet, I can see 17 staplers, 12 calculators, 15 hole-punches of various types, boxes and boxes of staples and ACCO fasteners, multiple Dymo/Rotex labellers, numerous transistor radios, and so on.
I’ve been able to see the evolution of the man, from his younger self to the man I got to know as I was an adult (for we really don’t get to know our parents as people when we are children). I’ve seen the evidence of the times he was scared, when he had to look for work, of the trials in his life. I’m glad that I got to know him, but now that I’ve learned his past, I wish he was here so we could talk about it.
This is something I never got to see with my mother. Because of her nature, we weren’t talking much at the time she died, and so my dad did most of the cleanup of her stuff. Thus, I never really got to know the person: I rejected knowing her when I was an adult because of our personality clashes; I didn’t know her as a child. I don’t really know her story: her trials, her successes. She really didn’t keep memoriabilia, or at least not that I know of.
My question is this: Why do we keep this stuff? What does this memorabilia (and the stuff we keep) say about us and our lives? Do we keep the stuff from the good times, the times we want to relive? I’ve found very little from the late 1960s and early 1970s, which is when my brother was older and up to his death. Was that a time my dad was trying to forget? Are all the office supplies an expression of growing up during the depression?
What does what we have at home say about our lives? When my daughter, in 50 years, has to do a dig through my stuff, what will she think? I know I have very little from my college days, although I do have stuff from the UCLA Computer Club. I have lots of stuff from camp, but practically nothing from High School. I have photos and stuff from the early days of my marriage, but little career correspondence.
We seem to carry with us a lot of debris. I’ve begun to learn that the debris only serves to slow us down. It can make it harder to move on in ones life (I think one of the reasons I don’t want to change houses is that this would mean I’d have to pack up stuff). Yet, when we throw it away, do we make it harder for our children to learn about us as people?
So: What debris and memorabilia do you have? What story would it tell? Do you find yourself consciously keeping less debris from the bad times, from your missspent youth?