marcescence 2

(this kind of goes along with yesterday’s post…)

My mom wrote letters to her mother once a week throughout her adult life as long as herimage mom was alive. Onion skin-like sheets of paper typed single space and often with carbon paper so she could send a duplicate to someone else.

My grandmother saved every one – tucked in their original envelope, stacked neatly in shoe boxes.

Now my mother, currently older than my grandmother was when she died 30 years ago, is dutifully pulling those letters from the envelopes, reading them and putting them into plastic sleeves.

She tells me she doesn’t remember half the stuff she wrote about all those years ago. I’ve read a few of the letters as well as some I sent to my grandmother – because she saved those too – and I don’t remember the stuff I wrote about either.  Or what I read just really doesn’t match up with what I’ve come to remember as most consequential from those blocks of time.  I am realizing that what I chose to document really isn’t what became  most important after all.

My mom is putting the plastic sleeves into now bulging notebooks.  “I don’t know what you guys will do with these.” (I have 3 siblings.)  “I don’t really care, maybe you don’t really care.”

I don’t know how I feel.  I read through some of the story bits and am entertained. There are snippets of accounts of our escapades in school, camp, family trips, daily doings. There are little sketches and poems and doodles and stanzas from camp songs. It is charming, all of it.

But I don’t know what to hold on to or let go.  Does an account like this matter – filling in the gaps as it does – when what we actually remember and hold dear is vastly different or at best only a mere essence of the recorded detail?   Does accuracy in memory really matter when time creates a new reality?   Will knowing what my mom recorded as significant affect or change my relationship with her, my dad, my siblings or myself?

Marcescence

shall I let these carefully preserved records of daily details fall as compost to the new memories I’m creating every day

and/or

keep them in place in their plastic sleeves, preserving their truth and posterity, as witness to the past

or

let them go

(I know my siblings will have their own opinions)

I suppose all memories eventually become fodder – forgotten, discarded, or folded into some new venture. The present continuously demands our full attention no matter the care we take to preserve the past – plastic sleeves, shoe boxes, notebooks, blogs, Facebook.  Time will not be denied the light of tomorrow and tomorrow’s light always alters what we see through a lens.

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5 responses to “marcescence 2

  • shaggerspicchu

    Wow, those must be so interesting to read. I can see the value in keeping them and reminiscing in the years to come. However, as I look back to pictures from my university and high school years I am embarrassed so I can understand the desire to get rid of them as well.

  • fireflytrails

    Once again you have asked the questions that give me pause, that make me ponder my own pieces and trappings of the past. I am wondering what really is valuable and what, as you say, is compost. Or what needs to be let go. Letting go reminds me of a favorite book, “Letting Swift River Go,” and there is definite value in that as well. Thank you again for pushing me to think deeply and make some decisions along my path of spring cleaning this time of year.

  • elsie

    What to keep, what to trash, that is the perpetual question we ask. I am a keeper, my husband is more of a disposer. You get to a point in life when you have to ask Who would want this? That’s the question I ask as I begin to let things go. What a dilemma!

  • franmccrackin

    Wow- big questions about memory, history, and more. So much literature is based on this. Have you read The Secret Scripture” by Sebastian Barry?
    Anyway, I can relate to this, having recently gone through a lot of family papers. And I am always wondering what has value to keep and what weighs us down.

  • Gretchen Staebler

    I love that word, partly because it looks like “March Essence.” Spring cleaning. Cherishing the essence and thanking then discarding the rest. I just finished going through my own photographs that aren’t in an album. 99% of which should not have been kept in the first place. The Konmari suggestion to look at each one and ask myself what I want to keep, rather than what I want to discard was helpful. (8 photo boxes down to one, and most of those will probably also go.) Letters and cards are the next project. I must say, I am enjoying and grateful for some of the things my parents kept, but not all! Thank you for this thought provoking post.

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