Sunday, January 2, 2011

For Sentimental Reasons

Do you remember that girl in elementary school who always used to pass notes? And she would go home with a pocket full of them, put them on her dresser, and a week later shove them into a drawer only to forget about them for a while?

What about that girl in middle school who would save each and every little note or pencil or piece of gum or anything from a boy? After that flavor had expired for the week, she would forget about those little insignificant things she had of his – a note, a pencil, a stick of gum – and they would be buried somewhere in that junk drawer?

What about the girl from highschool? That’s one who saved every corsage from every dance and dried it out and displayed it on her mirror and kept it there until she graduated from college at which point she would tuck it safely away in a shoebox to keep for memories. This girl also has millions of pictures of her and her friends with silly faces, their best smiles, self-photos, pictures of dress shopping, pictures of every single little thing that ever happened and she will keep them forever.

I’m sure you know that girl.  She’s the same one who keeps the pictures of herself with every boyfriend she ever had and stores it in the box of corsages. Not because she misses him or wants him back, but because of the memories. She’s the girl who will occasionally pull these things back out years after the fact and smile while looking at them, remembering all the good times and then tuck them safely away for the next trip down memory lane. When she’s old and dies all of the stuff will still be there, in the same box in her attic for her children and grandchildren to discover.

I’m not that girl.

I’m the unsentimental girl, the heartless one. I’m the one who will keep all of the sweet things from a boyfriend until about a week after I break up with him. Then I throw all of the letters in the fireplace, crumble the rose petals into hundreds of tiny rose crumbs, and throw the teddy bear to the dog for a new chew toy. The dog loves that bear.

Sometimes I feel guilt for not being a sentimental person. I do keep the important things such as my favorite book that Papa used to read me and the harmonica he gave me that I always liked to play with. I keep the letter Daddy wrote to me when I graduated from college and the card he gave me after we had a huge heart to heart that changed our father-daughter relationship for the better. I have the Life is Good coffee mug from one of my ex-boyfriends because he wasn’t awful and I really like the mug. I even kept the Canadian coin he gave me, but mostly because I don’t know what else to do with it and you can’t very well throw money away.

There it is. Did you catch it? I’m defending myself because of my guilt over my lack of sentimentality. It’s just that I hate clutter. I see no point in keeping stuff that is just stuff. The memories will still be there even after the stuff is gone. Why do I need dead roses that smell funny and a bear that I’ll just pack away? Do I have to keep every picture that kids I babysat ever colored for me?

I delete digital photos that are taking up hardly any storage space at all on my computer because I haven’t looked at them in years, I’m not in them, and I no longer have any communication with the people in them. My thinking is that I just don’t need to keep them. They’re just digital clutter.

It’s not that I don’t love the roses or the letters or the teddy bears or the pictures or the people or the memories we made when I was gifted with those things or people, but I have my memories even without the stuff.

But it’s the guilt! And the silly little worries! What about when I have kids? Will I have to keep every picture they ever colored for me? Every handmade gift or craft they ever proudly presented to me? Will it make me a bad mom to throw those things away?

And then I think about the fact of death. What if someone I am close to, my mom for example, gives me a card and I don’t keep it and then she dies and I have nothing in her own words telling me that she loves me? I have nothing from Nana except an afghan that she crocheted for me and the only reason I have things from Papa is because I think they got stuffed in a box at some point that disappeared until years after he had passed away and after his death I recognized the value of having The Three Billy Goats Gruff and Old Mother Hubbard.

I’d like to say that my lack of sentimentality is because I store up my treasures in Heaven, but that would be a lie which might prevent me from ever seeing those alleged Heaven-stored treasures.

Sometimes though, when I look over at that little white bear lying on the dog’s bed, hardly worse for the seven-year wear, I feel an urge to pick it up, toss it in the washing machine, and then put it away nice and clean only to pull it out in ten, twenty, sixty years and realize that your heart never really forgets your first love.
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