To be honest, I have only thought of maybe 2 or 3 things that I have missed from storage over the past 7 months. And I am comfortable with how we have arranged our space here. I don't want to clutter it up with a bunch of stuff I don't need but can't get rid of. So I am ready for that hard purge...mostly.
What I learned Saturday as I opened boxes before loading them in the truck for my parent's garage sale is that while I am ready to purge, it is still painful. Letting go of things, even things we know we don't want or need is still hard. And after about a dozen boxes I realized I needed to stop, walk away. I had not prepared emotionally for that deep a cut, I was not prepared to go through and say good bye to all my things, special treasures from my grandma's house, pictures, gifts from friends and family. I know I don't use them, even in the house they were rarely used, I know I can't justify finding space in my condo for a silver soup tureen that I have used maybe 6 times since our wedding nearly 24 years ago. It has to go.
But there are other things...
We do love living in this little condo and we just might end up staying here forever, but I don't know for sure what the future holds. And getting rid of some special memories because at this moment in my life I don't have room for them...that is hard. And wrong. How do you define what is worth keeping and what it is time to let go of?
Jake's old toys. His Lego's and Brio train set. I kept them after he had outgrown them, do I get rid of them now just because of this possibly temporary downsize? John and I agreed to keep them. For our grandchildren, for the memories. I have gotten rid of a lot of toys over the years but those bins are staying. And I think I would get an affirmation even among the most streamlined homemakers.
However, some things have no value except to create memories, and I wonder if I really need them. I pulled out of the storage unit a box that has followed us around from our first little apartment with the bug problem to our second little apartment that we loved and on to our first and second houses before heading into our storage unit. Never opened, never reviewed. On the top of the box it says, "wedding cards" and "b-day cards" and indeed that is what is actually inside.
In some ways I am embarrassed to admit I still have cards from my wedding and 20th birthday. Especially considering that cards I now receive barely make it past my trash after they come in. I love getting them but at some point many years ago I decided there was no reason to keep them. I receive, enjoy and toss. Special occasions may dictate I display them for a season, Christmas, birthday, etc but once the time has past, they are gone. Actually, I do save my Christmas cards in storage all year long and then re-read them when we get out the decorations before tossing them. It has become a fun tradition for me.
So, naturally, I had to re-read all the cards in the wedding box before I could toss them.
Reading the cards was like a trip back in time. We had a pretty big wedding, my parents invited everyone they knew and they all showered us with love and blessings. It is fun to see the names on the cards. Many of the people are gone now, my grandparents and great aunts and uncles. And a few people who died too soon. Then there are people who through the passage of time and the changes of life we don't know anymore. It is funny that most of the people we have spent our adult life with did not know us when we got married. But a handful of friends were there and it has been a treasure to journey through life with them.
On the back of every card is written what they gave us for our wedding. I love the ones from older family members who actually wrote what they gave me inside the card themselves! I used the cards to write thank you notes. I even found a thank you note for someone in there! A forgotten thank you note for a family member who is now gone. I must have been forgiven because nobody ever said anything. And on one of those cards was that silver soup tureen that I have loved having but rarely used. Given to us by someone I don't remember.
This is why I keep things like this, for the memory, for the trip back in time. It is precious.
As a bonus, I found all the letters I wrote to John when we were apart for 3 months after graduating from high school. I think I might have the letters he wrote me in another box but these were all from me. I didn't read them all, most of them follow this basic theme: "I love you baby. I miss you. I really love you. I love you. Love always, Mel" An occasionally piece of news or acknowledgement of something he wrote thrown in there, and a countdown of the days until I will see him again. Mainly the typical ramblings of a love-sick teenager. But they also remind me of my son, his long distance relationship and the letters he was surely sending as well. My favorite was a letter written to John when he was at camp before I left for college. I had a fight with my parents and told him he could probably guess what it was about but if not I would tell him later and I was so upset I was pretty sure I would never speak to my parents again. Ah yes, the memories are clear now. The thrill to get away from the crazy people who had loved and raised me all those years. Oh the injustice of their thinking they had any right to speak into my life. How do we ever get out of childhood unscathed? My parents have probably been laughing a lot this past couple years.
And I found a precious note from John's mom written to him I am guessing after he moved into what would be our first apartment but before we were married. Actually she typed it which is funny but in it she is telling John she is proud of him, likes how the place is decorated and is careful to acknowledge both of us not just him. I totally feel for her, the worry of losing her son and desire to say the right thing and be encouraging. It felt like the kind of notes I have been writing lately. She has always been special to me but so much more the past few years as I have watched my son move his affections to another. It is something every mother expects and desires for her son but that doesn't make it any easier.
How do you toss all that away? I am not sure I can. I can squeeze in one more small box, right? I will get rid of the wicker chip basket, and my grandma's lazy susan with serving bowls, and I put out the soup tureen. But I can't give up the memories and the relationships that have been part of the making of this life and who we are today.