We’re moving to a new home and I just realized I am a sentimental junkie. Found boxes of memories, stashed away in my cabinets. Years of greeting cards, ticket stubs, restaurant napkins, birthday candles, crumbling rose petals, a beat-up carousel, gummy balloons, even my daughters moth-eaten horse puppet. Who keeps these things and what was I thinking? What birthday was I celebrating, what did I toast to, who was the man I loved? Add to that the folders beside my table, crammed with my children’s artwork: sticks, spirals, and today’s portraits of me in rainbow dresses.
Sentimental clutter. Somehow, I imagined that if I kept the fragments conserved somewhere, I could keep the magic that was that moment. Years hence open it and have a whiff of a memory once more.
But what’s so great about a movie stub? Or a budging envelope of travel keepsakes I haven’t even peered at in 7, make than 10 years! Anyone going through my clutter will definitely throw them in the trash without hesitation. I should know better. Objects are just objects. But what happens when an object becomes part of a history? We’d pay thousands for Michael Jackson’s scruffy glove right? (Oh yeah, he is Michael Jackson.) How did I ever decide that a Paula Zayco moment in time could be ascribed to a napkin? Is the memory forgotten if I finally threw the disintegrating napkin in the trash? Would I rather keep the memory alive in a song, or poetry, or here, on my screen, and not tucked away in a box somewhere? I thought opening the sentimental box would create magic anew. And yet years later, it doesn’t happen. I am not in that moment at all. The past isn’t relived. Magical moments I guess you can’t keep and uncover in boxes.
Still, there are actually mementos that should be kept. Because I truly can’t imagine a life without sentimentality, or the objects that represent them. Nostalgia will make me keep the butterfly puppet I worked on for days for my daughter’s first birthday. Or the one letter that told me I passed the bar. Those I could keep, not in a box, but to cherish or share. These are the treasures I would rescue and bring with me in case of fire. This was going to be my rule, painful as it may be. If the keepsake wiill seemingly be kept in a box, stowed away in the attic that means it is junk and not something I want to keep. Seriously, I wouldn’t have the time to look at those cards, ticket stubs and letters again anyway. As for the rest, I’m going digital (will photograph the objects I want to remember I bet there’s an app for that) or trashing them. And then I just have to constantly remind myself objects don’t have magical properties. The memories inside my head and felt deep in the heart will do. I really don’t want so much baggage this time. And I will need lots of free space for my new moments in time.