My parents recently called my siblings and me to their house for help with a rather daunting task: pick up all our crap. Bins full of grade school art projects and high school year books. File folders with report cards and college acceptance letters. Tiny shoes and faded photos and personal journals filled with the dreams of a 12 year old me.
I left the kids at home with Chris and made the one hour drive out to the country. On the way I listened to Sirius Satellite Radio’s “First Wave” station. It seemed fitting for the occasion as U2, Blondie and The Police played the soundtrack to my youth. The day was, after all, a journey back in time for me.
I carried nine large plastic bins down from my parents’ attic and immediately started sorting and discarding. With three kids and a city home, we have a finite amount of space available. Excess stuff stresses me out, and I knew I couldn’t bring it all back. I had to thoughtfully yet quickly sort through decades of memories. Middle school year books? Toss. Letters my mom wrote me when I went to Notre Dame? Keep. Dangly earring collection from 5th grade? Toss. Journal from 5th grade? Keep. After an hour and a few tears, the task was complete.
And, there it was: 30 years of a wonderful life crammed into three plastic bins.
I think we hang on to these mementos to validate the importance of the life once lived. We want to know that life mattered. But, of course it mattered whether or not we hang on to every last trinket. For me, memories are sacred, best lived through photos and recollections over long dinners.
It isn’t about stuff. It is about life.
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