Of course, I do live in Alaska. And c’mon, we can’t expect flowers and sunshine when snow is still haunting the shadows and the temps are chilly. There is another meme I have about Spring in Alaska. And it sums up most of our attitudes…
And that’s kinda the mood I am in today – hunkered down in sweats and slippers. I have spent the past 3 days – literally entire days – going through our memory stuff. Totes upon totes worth of the past 37 years of married life with kids – and then some. As I went through – seriously – every, single photo we own and wrote on the back of it, or tossed it, my hand began to ache. I went from 6 totes of loose photos down to three. I am proud of myself.
As I made my way through these boxes and albums, I came to realize that I am the sole storage for most of my family’s histories. And I inherited my grandparents on both sides’ photos – why? Weirdly enough, both of my parents are only children. And I have just 1 brother – who does not like old things. So I got the collective memories from 4 families. And it was daunting. My heart swelled in thanks when something was written on the back. But I have this one album, complete with black pages, and lots of fading photos from one end to the other, with not a single name. I recognized familial traits, so I could narrow it down to my mother’s mother’s maiden name side. Sigh. But that is all. No one person stood out to me. And these photos are from the late 1880s. I did recognize a house my grandmother lived in as a child, so I know for sure it is her side of the family. because I have a mounted photo with names on it, and she is one of the people named. But they are all in New Zealand, no less. There is no one alive I can consult about them, who I know about in the greater familial ties, or even know where to look for them, or a last name to try! And that made me sad. I could not get rid of it. I love history too much. I even saved a couple of photos of people I have no way to identify, but the photos are so awesome. All in sepia and mounted on cardboard with lovely borders. I just could not bring myself to toss them out.
One of the reasons I am doing this is because I am in purge mode. We have too much stuff in our garage. We have hauled the same boxes, unopened, through three states. One of the things we did was go through all our saved, recorded, VHS tapes. We inherited my grandma’s old VHS player and it works! So we plopped in tapes with no labels, understood why no one wrote on them, and tossed them out. LOL! One is from an old family friend, with her narrating, old black and white videos from her family. Not a single video of my family. Not sure why we had it but it is no longer in my video tote! We only kept about 6 VHS tapes. And we watched our wedding video. We both shed a tear at the same song. Isn’t that cool!! We are going to ask my brother-in-law to put these on CDs for us. Isn’t it funny how things become so outdated, you don’t have the machine to play them or view them on??
Another revelation is that our photo records pretty much stopped, or certainly slowed to a trickle, when our oldest son hit high school. And I realized it was because we all went digital. And in a weird way, it made me sort of sad. It is like when I reluctantly transitioned from books you hold and touch and smell to an e-reader. I went kicking and screaming and now my kindle is with me all the time. I marveled at how the first time I traveled with it, I was carrying 600 books in my purse (yeah, I love books). And as this purge went, we also downsized by a lot. We took 6 totes the the local thrift store, full of books. Most of them were great reads, but I had to admit to myself I probably would not read them again, and if I chose to do so, would use my kindle to do it. I gave up my original Twilight series, the Divergent series, a series I bought in college about the Civil War (all 8 volumes of it), some very large books I dove into with relish like Ruska and Peter the Great… but I know I won’t read them again. I did save books my kids read and they are boxed up and ready for them to get in the mail.
When people die, they leave behind relished trinkets and photos, slips of cloth, programs from events, ticket stubs, even toys and saved bits of clothing. Some people collect their whole lives and leave stacks and stacks and stacks of stuff. And someone has to go through all that and dispose of it. Sorting through things after someone passes away is a rough task. When my mother-in-law passed away, it was a monumental task. Lots of feelings come out when you go through another person’s things. Especially if they were a collector. When my grandmother passed away, she had been staying with me about 6 months. But I still had to get back to her place and dispose of everything. I did it alone, with the help of my 2 younger boys, schlepping things to the dumpster, the car, and to the local thrift shop in her senior complex. That thrift shop was a sad place, because every single thing in there was only there because someone died. Other seniors would come and go through the things and take what they needed, at no charge to them. It felt good to help others like that, but it also grieved me even more. Grandma had been parsed down to a few boxes. And she was almost 100 years old. It was hard enough caring for her as she died, let alone clearing out all her things. These past few days, I mourned the passing of my family all over again. And I mourned the passing of my life – it has gone by in the wink of an eye.
And today I am just tired. So much went through my brain this weekend. So many people I no longer see or even know where they are. Lots of friends and family who are no longer with us. I was watching a VHS tape and started to cry because I realized everyone in the movie, except for my immediate family, are all dead. It happened so quickly. Now I see my children, and their families, fully engaged in their own lives. And so very busy. Pretty soon they will be where I am now – standing outside and watching their own children move along this racing timeline. It caused me to stop and think. And I realized, too, I am one of those old folks that sit on the sidelines, watching the young people. So so weird.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what has been planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away; a time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.Ecclesiastes 3:1-8