I’m back at my parent’s house and this means I’m surrounded by my history. It’s not just that I’m sleeping in my old bedroom, still sporting the wallpaper I picked out in the 8th grade. Its the whole package. Family lore, family photos, and all the rest.
When Jeff and I moved to Valencia nearly 18 months ago there were things we just couldn’t part with, but also couldn’t justify putting in a box to ship to Spain. Things like every family photo album, high school year books, the kid’s baby clothes, and on and on. We just weren’t ready yet to let go of that stuff. What a difference 18 months makes.
We had filled a U-haul with gobs of stuff and driven it from Arizona to Portland in the middle of January, a month before we flew out, across 1700 miles. That’s just how precious we found some of this stuff to be. So valuable it was, that we couldn’t part with it when we had chucked a whole house full of stuff. So part of my mission this trip was to go back through those boxes I stored in my parent’s garage, and in the big walk-in closet in my childhood bedroom, and ‘decision’ it all (Jeff hates it when I use that word but it’s apt in this case).
I started in the garage this afternoon and swiftly set aside two boxes to be taken to the the Goodwill. Then I moved on. When our kids were growing up we had a large wooden box for each child. In it was stuffed all their art work, writings, scribbling and generally all the things we thought were so precious. Picassos and Hemingways they were, guaranteed! Turns out they didn’t think they were so precious after time to review the contents. And I am no longer feeling it either. So out most of it went.
I went through our wedding albums. All 10 of them. And the tough choices I couldn’t seem to make all those years ago? Yeah, it’s not a problem now. And some of the other photo albums? Who put those together with pictures of deer on some unknown hike we took to some unidentifiable mountain ridge? Gone!
I just threw away two large garbage bags of photos. I’m not sure what I was saving all that for. But I did discover that I wasn’t as chubby in high school and college as I had previously thought I was. Emilie was helping me looking through each pile.
‘You looked pretty good back then, Mom.’ she said surprised.
I’ve decided to take that as a compliment and not ask about any comparison to the current me that she might be using as a yardstick. I left some other stuff up on the shelves. Baby books that they can get later when they visit their grandmother. Then I found the ashes of the two greatest dogs that ever walked the planet – our beloved Golden Retriever, Mr. Perkins and our Newfie, Gus. They will be tucked in my backpack on my flight home as the precious cargo they are.
I’ve winnowed the rest down to what I can carry in two large suitcases. And that’s it. There will be a few family mementos in there but it will all fit. I;ll be heading up to Jeff’s Mom’s house near Seattle the first week in August to pick up a suitcase she’s been storing for us. It contains my wedding dress and Emilie’s adoption books. The dress will be going back with me. The adoptions books will be handed over to Em. She’s old enough now that her history before she showed up at our door is hers to know in it’s entirety, and she’ll be the steward of what happens to those binders.
There is one box that can’t be donated or the contents thrown away. And I don’t have a shredder, so I have a plan. My entire life my parents have had a fire pit. Every summer night we had a fire on the patio and we sometimes roasted hot dogs or marshmallows. Sometimes we just sat around it and talked into the wee hours until the coals burned down. So, between now and my last day in August, I’ll be using our old documents as fire starter. The papers we thought we couldn’t live without. Now, they’ll be going up in smoke as the kindling crackles and the smores are consumed. Poof!
Many, many boxes later, it feels great to let go. But I know we needed this time to get there. What a difference a year makes.