What is that compels us to collect evidence of past experience? Do we not trust our our feeble memories? Time robs us of yesterday, while firmly shoving us toward tomorrow.
Being here at my parents’ home in PA, a house I’ve never lived in and only visited a handful of times over the past five years, takes me far away from my West Coast present. Rifling through mildewy boxes of my childhood momentos allows flickers of forgotten time: that Clowns for Christ weekend, those high school SAT and AP test scores, the notes from my fifth grade girlfriend and myriad Boy Scout badges and patches.
I’m surrounded by everything they’ve collected in their years together. The stuff that survived the 10 moves I made with them during my first 18 years has now been joined with new relics of three other moves. What’s going to survive this next one, as they prepare to go to western New York next week?
Watching my dad sort through tons (literally) of magazines and books—theology and religion, magic, writing, origami, role-playing games, science fiction and fantasy, storytelling, cycling—shows me how defined he is by his pursuit of knowledge, or at least the acquisition thereof. Seeing my mom wade through recipes, both handwritten and torn-out from magazines, underlined her connection to people and places across time through food. Some are tried and true (with stains to prove it), and others just symbols of hope for a future sidedish, culinary adventure or inspiration for another idea.
For my crap, it’s all being thrown away, even the seven years of art school drawings and paintings. At least the student loans are paid off. What good would these objects serve me now? Back in San Francisco, they’d just sit in storage, never to be seen until a move or a cleaning purge. Their demise is inevitable.
If I had time, I’d take a picture of every item and write a little bit about where and when it was aquired, a memory blog of sorts. Better yet, I could start by capturing everything that comes into my life right now, so I wouldn’t have to look back and think and wonder what I’m forgetting.
But that would be a fruitless and endless practice. One that would get in the way of they real day-to-day of living. Besides, I’ve never organized any of my photos and I’ll be darned if I start scrapbooking now. I’d focus on the what’s happening of right now, of the bread I baked for dinner and the pea soup I made with my mom.
There’s so much of my own past that I want to hold onto, even seek out and find those long-lost friends. And to do that means a little less time at work and more time creating new memories with people I love. (A New Year’s resolution, perhaps?)
In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the rare gem the pops onto my radar screen, like this clipping from the Uniontown, PA paper’s article on the changing lives of minister’s wives. I may no longer have that towheaded mop-top or that killer bike race tanktop, but I know that once I did, and it made me smile.