As my parents were beginning to get older, my mother wanted to – had to – ensure everything was in order. Wills, insurance, funeral arrangements (there aren’t any – despite my daddy’s desire to be shot out of a cannon in tiny bits – everything gets donated to science, then cremated, and no funeral or else but if I want to have a little party that’s ok), all of it had to be nailed down for my mother’s peace of mind.
And she began going through stuff, years of stuff. MANY years of stuff. I’m a pack rat by nature and I come by it honestly. All I was ever after was old family pictures, and I got them. I also got family bibles, numerous newspaper clippings of things my parents have written (even letters to the editor), my own birth announcements, my mother’s graduation announcement, every certificate my father ever got for anything, thirty year old food menus, my grandmother’s silver, and a two hundred and fifty year old book of philosophy.
That’s, like, a LOT of stuff.
Mom hates clutter. Take it, just take it all, she said. If you throw it away, just don’t tell me.
So it came in waves. Every time I went to my parent’s house, I returned with at least several boxes. From my parent’s attic straight to my tiny little spare room, just stacks of it. My mother couldn’t dispose of any of it, not an old receipt, not a picture of a person who’s name nobody could remember, none of it. That became my job.
I’ve finally begun going through these things – it’s SO hard. Last night, I came across a couple hundred vacation pictures, no people, just trees, buildings, etc – maybe Florida mid 80s, I’m not sure.
I had to throw them away. I had to be ruthless. I had to throw away pictures of 70s people I absolutely did not recognize and new weren’t family. As I sorted through the vacation pictures, I thought of all the pictures Mike and I take of things that interest us while on vacation.
In fifty or sixty years, it’s not going to mean a God-Damned thing to anyone. Nobody will know and nobody will care – it was just an important memory to us.
As I took the old anonymous vacation pictures to the trash, as I dug through the old documents, I thought – I am literally sorting through someone else’s memories and trying to determine what is worth saving.
That’s pretty fucking depressing.