Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I'm Not a Hoarder.....Really!

I’m not a hoarder- really. But I do save things. Important things. Tax returns, family photographs, correspondence with friends and relatives, souvenirs we’ve picked up on vacations, report cards, holiday newsletters….okay, I am a bit of a hoarder. Not the kind who would be featured on a reality television show. It’s not that bad. But now that we are packing up the house as we prepare to move, I am realizing just how much I’ve saved over the years and most importantly, what those items say to me and about me. 

When you have lived in one place as long as we have, packing to move is a trip down memory lane. As I wander from room to room, searching through closets, under beds, and in the dust-filled far reaches of cupboards, I find myself face to face with the early years of our marriage and family. In one closet, on a high shelf, a small box decorated with shelf paper is shoved under a pile of books. I open the box slowly, remembering before the lid is even off, what is inside. The scrap of fabric tucked inside is grimy and tattered. But I lift it to my face and inhale the scent of my twenty-two year old daughter’s beloved blanky and remember the two year old who couldn’t fall asleep without it. 

A box labeled “Tax Stuff ’07-‘08” turns out to contain tax returns and receipts as well as letters my now twenty-four year daughter sent from summer camp and college. Not sure why they are all mixed together in this one box, but pulling them out and reading them took me the better part of half an hour. Yes, I could have been using that time to do other things but the glimpse into a past I don’t always remember so well was a rare opportunity to travel back in time. Of course, it was also an opportunity to shred and toss papers dating all the way back to 1987. In this age of electronic tax returns and e-signatures on mortgage documents, it astounds me how much paperwork was generated not that many years ago. 

A smaller box with my son’s name scrawled across it turns out to contain flat stuffed animals (what happened to the stuffing inside I do not want to know) and some random raffle tickets. Yes, raffle tickets. He bought them with his own money and distributed them to us when he decided we were in need of back scratches, hugs, and help around the house. 

Another box yields photos and letters from the families I worked with through the years, both as a home daycare provider and an elementary school teacher. Each picture and hand-written note takes me back to friends who are now scattered around the country, but who will always hold a special place in my heart. 

My husband says we need to minimize. “It’s a good time to downsize,” he says every time he sees me packing. Never mind that the new house is actually bigger and has more storage space than this one. “That’s not the point,” he argues. “We don’t need all this stuff.” See, that’s what he doesn’t understand. It’s not just stuff.  I know, I know….. I’ve watched Hoarders myself. I am fully aware that I will have the memory of my daughter’s blanky even if that blanky isn’t here for me to touch and hold. But the fact that it is here means that on days when I am missing the beautiful twenty-three year old who lives three hours away, I can pull out a tangible reminder of who she used to be and curl up with my memories for just a little while.