“What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters…”


“…You can’t reread a phone call.” ~Liz Carpenter

The entire second year of our marriage, Jeff was on a ship.  Not a happy cruising with girls in bikinis and drinks with umbrellas kind of ship, but a gunmetal grey one with war planes and I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons sort of ship.  During that time, we wrote each other a lot of letters.  Also, before we were married, and lots of times after that year as well.  And I have kept pretty much all of them.  Of course, I’ve also kept Jeff, which is not true of the high school boyfriend and the actor fling I really enjoyed in university, and I’ve also kept their letters.

And now, as we’re getting ready to move, again (insert heavy sigh here), I am realizing that all the little treasures of my life just might not make the cut this time.

We’ll be moving from a 10-room house to an apartment of about 700 square feet, if all goes to plan, and that means a lot of stuff I have in my second (albeit smaller) dresser and in multiple boxes in my very large closet (which I don’t have to share!) will have to go… somewhere.

The problem for me is, I don’t know what I want to keep with me, put into storage or shred/recycle/burn at the next full moon.

How do you choose?  The actor with whom I had a very happy few months has since died – stupid stomach cancer – and while I always knew that he was a fling, he was also a friend and became a friend of Jeff’s too.  I miss having him in my life, a lot, and I want to keep his few letters.  I also want to keep the letters from the high school boyfriend, my parents, my brothers (the ones they wrote when I was in Australia – they were so little & cute back then!), and of course Jeff.  But that’s a whole banker’s box, and overstuffed at that, and where do I put it?

And the letters are easy compared to the framed photographs and the bottle of coloured sand and the tiny refrigerator and the scrapbooks & photo albums and the desk set and… and… and.  These are the bits & pieces of my life, gifts from friends and family that have stories attached to them, memories attached to them, love attached to them.  You just don’t don’t recycle love, do you?

So I’m just standing here, immobile, feeling helpless in the waves of memory and nostalgia that are threatening to drown all my good intentions, thinking that for the first time in my life, getting rid of books will actually be easier than any other part of the packing process.  And I hate getting rid of books!  But I just don’t think I can get rid of much of my heart.  Put it in storage… maybe.  Recycle… not so much.

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2 thoughts on ““What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters…”

  1. A small box of memories does not take up much room even if that box contains all your pics, cards and some trinkets.
    It’s better to trash a piece of furniture, an extra box of extra dishes, than to toss away those reminders of people who made a difference in your life.
    You are who you are now partly because of those friendships. To toss those might also feel like you’re tossing a piece of your body.

  2. I feel your pain. I, too, am completely overwhelmed by a sea of boxes. I’m paralyzed by the sheer amount. I’ve started by keeping one box to keep in storage, (not sure why) one to donate and then put the rest away. How to decide what to get rid off?

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