Nixing the Paper Trail

Memory lane

[Awww yeahhh 1993. What a bright pink bathing suit I've got there. Wait a damn minute, was that really almost twenty years ago?!]

Sometimes I forget about things. Sometimes I get lazy. Sometimes I do both simultaneously.

As I was driving down the highway, I could hear the ice chest in the trunk sloshing around. It sounded like I had a dead body back there. We were close enough to the next stop we were making on our way to Denham Springs for me to ignore it for a few more miles. We finally pulled up on the curb of a friend’s house. The caravan of cars ahead of us had filed neatly into the driveway.

I peeled myself from the driver’s seat and went around the rear of my car. I figured I would investigate what was causing my ice chest to slingshot around my back seat like a bouncy ball. My friend had initially loaded the ice chest. Since I frequently stash things in my trunk (don’t worry, nothing that’s alive… wait that didn’t sound right), I knew there was no telling what I would rediscover when I opened that door.

Whew, it was only an old box. A half-opened old box labeled memories.

There was also a miniature Christmas tree back there, but it was not the culprit. I needed to move my memory box. I must have lazily forgotten to store it when I moved in to my new apartment. I proceeded to position myself in a lifter’s stance, and with less force than I imagined, I hoisted the box up and headed for the seat directly behind the driver’s. I hadn’t remembered the box being this heavy. Before I could even ask my friend to assist me with the side door, I felt a sudden and immense release.

Standing over an empty box with its bottom busted and hanging pathetically in the wind, I dared to look down. There they were. All the items that have ever held any significance to me since childhood were still crumbling like a mini avalanche on the pavement. Pictures, notes, love notes, journals, diaries, programs from dance performances, sea shells, CD’s, newspapers, more pictures, and all this stuff that once seemed so small and compact in that old decrepit box now resembled a tidal wave of junk. Only it wasn’t junk.

As my friend doubled over in uncontrollable snickering, I immediately became filled with a sense of extreme embarrassment. I felt like my clothes had just vanished right off my body. I mean, that was the last decade of my life there covering the asphalt. The good, the bad, the awkward, and the private. With good intentions, my friend began scooping up the remnants and throwing them back in to the demolished cardboard box. Fragile papers sprinkled with the stories of my exposed past accumulated on my floorboard.

When the embarrassment subsided, I gave in to the laughter. After all, when people drop things it is funny, which makes other people laugh, which makes you laugh. Well, unless the item being dropped is a puppy. Let’s not think about that. After we successfully lackadaisically shoveled all the debris back in to my car, it was time to get on with our trip.

For most of the next day, I avoided the disaster in my back seat. Did I really want to filter through all of that stuff again and pack it back up nice and neat. Ten years organized in to a shitty box? Why was I keeping all this stuff anyway? Especially when I keep forgetting about its existence in the first place. Would I be okay with just dumping all of it and dusting off my hands? I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Okay, and I was being extremely lazy. A whole day of sunbathing and brews will do that to a gal. Eventually, I made a decision and marched down to the my own little ground zero with determination.

I only filled the trash bag half way before I was distracted by little trinkets and letters that I had forgotten about for years. I allowed myself to make a couple of brief stops down memory lane, but eventually I hit a road block. Maybe the reason I was accumulating all these memories by hoarding the physical, was because I thought I would need to revisit them to somehow guide me in the future. Now that I was forced to revisit them, however, I discovered that the events that created these memories have already impacted where I am and who I am today. I don’t need them. I say that in the sense that I no longer need to validate my life with the stories from my past, but rather with the hope of building memories to come. And just because the physical evidence is gone, the memories themselves are never lost completely.

When I finally dropped the bulging bag down the trash shoot, I felt proud of how far I have come since I started that heaping collection and excited about creating a new memory box. One that takes up less closet space. Now, if only I could stop hoarding Christmas trees. And cats. Kidding!

What physical things do you hold on to?

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Posted on June 12, 2012, in Experiments, Home, How I Knew, Inspirational, Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. Well…diaries, but also cards and when I find them 2 years later I’m like “what?” and just throw them out anyway. You must have felt a huge relief. Perhaps I should do the same!

    • Fact. Great relief. But it was followed by an intense fear that somehow someone I know would end up finding the contents of that trash bag and spread around my deepest secrets and how weird I am, thus ruining my life. Hasn’t happened yet, so I think I am cool.

  2. Like you, I also had a box….wait, I had several boxes, of old memories and pictures that I held onto. When I finally rediscovered them, I did the same exact thing…took a trip down memory lane and let it go. Those memories have shaped me and that is the most important part of them that I still have with me. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I have 5 boxes of old things! One for newspaper articles about my family and I, one for the old middle/high school letters. One for all the letters I get from my mom (which is a lot! I might need to start weeding that box…). One for old photos (should definitely weed that too…), and one for college notes and letters. :) I definitely hold onto the paper trail! haha

  4. This was great. I have a whole box of stuff too, maybe I should go through it sometime.

  5. You have a gift for titles…
    Well done, young lady!

  6. books that i know i’ll never read.

  7. First, you never need to stop hoarding cats.
    I hold on to stuff all the time. I still have my cleats that I wore during our State Championship game 10.5 years ago. I had to throw away a couple pairs of cleats last year while cleaning out my car. I hold on to weird stuff. I’m really nostalgic.

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