Monday, July 14, 2008

Remembrances of Things Past

I have been going through boxes that I have had in storage in preparation for our move. It is an exploration of the detritus of the lives of my family.

After my father died, I got the boxes that he had kept. That was when I discovered the sentimentality of that side of my family. My father had kept all of the report cards, drawings, and greeting cards that he had ever gotten. He had a box from when his mother died, and had kept it untouched. I found that she had saved all of the cards, letters, and wedding invitations that she had received. And she had kept the papers from her mother: the cards, flowers, notes from throughout her lifetime. Three generations of mementos.

And this did not include the various job applications, copies of tax reports, and other personal business paperwork my Dad had kept, the social security and medicare notices, the bank statements, and calendars that my Grandma kept, or the paperwork my Great-Grandma kept.

Then I opened one of my own boxes: I found bundles of greeting cards, letters sorted by writer, journals spanning thirty years, and cancelled checks and personal business papers dating back to the eighties. The sentimentality had carried over to a fourth generation.

The difficult thing about going through this process is that you see glimpses of parts of your relatives' lives that you were unaware of. There are names that are familiar, probably relations of one kind or another. And it is too late to really learn about them. I kept some of my Grandma's letters, and some of my father's papers to explore at a later date. My hope is to put together something for my sisters so that we can all feel a little closer to those loved ones who have gone on.

It left me wondering if it is better to make sure that I do not leave such a task for someone after I am gone, or is it better to leave some kind of record for them to explore and perhaps discover something about me that they did not know.

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