(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 her 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?
shall I let these carefully preserved records of daily details fall as compost to the new memories I’m creating every day
keep them in place in their plastic sleeves, preserving their truth and posterity, as witness to the past
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.