Today I cleaned out the old trunk in my childhood bedroom. It was high time I quit monopolizing my mother’s precious closet/trunk real estate and store those kinds of things in my own dusty basement.
I found my old kindergarten folder full of some of my earliest works of art. I thought Kate, my recent kindergarten grad, would get a kick out of it. She did. “Oh,” she said mater-of-factly. “Let’s see if your your drawing skills were as good as mine.” Note the word “were.” It’s funny to hear her talk about her own kinder-ness in the past tense. (It’s soooo last year.) She flicked through the pages of my 1982 portfolio and gave very complimentary statements. “Oooh. Nice whale you drew…good blow hole.”
After flipping through the hundredth worn photo or so, I finally gave myself permission to, dare I say it? Toss pictures. Yes, I threw away several, dozens of unflattering photographs of me with horrible hair, acrid acne and/or with my eyes half shut. Why did I save all of these disastrous pics in the first place? It was like hitting a refreshing delete button: delete, delete, delete. Ahhh, much better. I want my posterity to find only flattering, wow-look-at-grandma-in-this photos when they are trying to pull together my big 80th birthday bash.
The other thing I was happy to dig out of that stale, musty cedar chest were my letters. Hundreds and hundreds of letters: all addressed to me! Tangible, legible, lovely, warm, funny, affectionate letters. Letters from family, letters from friends, (letters from my dear husband when he was just a boyfriend,) all signed, sealed and delivered to me while I was away on one of my many, long journeys. Ooooh, I love a good, long letter.
I don’t get letters like that anymore. Sure I get emails, texts and twitters, but they are not the stuff of the thoughtful epistles found in my old shoe boxes. I doubt I’ll ever print out any of my IMs or transcribe my old voice mails and let them simmer in a shoe box so they can keep me company in the rest home. No.
But I do have these letters. I read only a few and enjoyed them so much, I decided to tuck the rest away and save them for a day when I’m old and gray and it’s too cold and wet to putter around in my garden. I’ll sit in my rocking chair with a quilt on my lap and read and savor all my delicious letters. Then I’ll whisper to myself in an airy Deborah Kerr manner,
“Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories…”