Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Throwing Away Memories

It is a relief to discover today is only Tuesday. I was afraid that yesterday was Tuesday, or perhaps Thursday. I guess if I were in an office staring at a computer all day praying for Friday, my attitude would be a little different. However, yesterday I stood, sat, knelt in a pile of my memories. My favorite books, my birthday cards, every letter sent to me by our German foreign exchange student in high school, several books of MadLibs, a present from my best friend, the program I bought when I saw Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, my elephant collection, my sumo newspaper clippings and books.

I sat in the middle of this timeline explosion, and nearly cried. My grandma’s nativity set. Too big to take to Japan, too old and broken to give to the thrift store. No one’s going to buy a nativity set where the wise men are missing hands, and the heads have been glued back on three times. Joseph is missing his staff. Or, is it a shepherd? Or, more likely, both of them. The angel sits skewed on her nail, and a two dimensional Jesus is the only one who hasn’t been chipped, safely painted into his manger. Into the garbage it goes, then.

All of my books. All except the Japanese language books I’ll need and two novels for the plane ride. I expect to obtain an e-reader in the near future, so I am not concerned with letting go of my H.G. Wells and Ursula LeGuin collections. They’re my favorite authors, but the books themselves mean little to me. However, the book Leanna gave me in high school I still have, complete with illustration she drew and has hung on my wall everywhere I have ever lived. The drawing can stay with me. The book is currently hidden under others going to the library in an attempt to make me forget it’s there.

Once I dreamed of having a home from which I travelled the world. I would go all over, see many things, and return to my bed and my pillows. My house would have photos on the walls and souvenirs of the places I visited. My dream home has morphed over the years, sometimes imagined as a large two story Victorian, sometimes a small apartment. Sometimes brick or stone, sometimes stucco or painted a pale yellow. But I had always figured I’d find a home base. It has finally occurred to me, after starting over three times in the U.S., that I don’t operate that way. I don’t go overseas to visit. I go overseas for a year. Or two. And this time, maybe for much longer.

I’m a nomadic, nostalgic packrat. I don’t keep things just to keep them. Each one has a story behind it. The Isabel Bloom statues given to me as a high school graduation present from my history teachers (yes, both of them each gave me one). The “warm fuzzy” given to me by a girl named Jodi when I learned that I would be leaving summer camp early because my grandma died. My college yearbooks; I helped make those. The walking stick with a bell on it, the one I bought on the road trip Kimberly and I made to Glacier National Park, the one which is supposed to keep away the bears. It must have worked, because we never saw a single bear the whole trip, and had to go to an animal sanctuary to find them! And all the rest of those souvenirs I brought back from my travels which would someday adorn my dream house. I can tell you a story about each piece of paper and each photo and each trinket.

Now, though, I have to condense my physical memories into two suitcases, a carry-on, and one green plastic tub of scrapbooks and travel journals, which I will be able to leave in the U.S. for now. It’s time to realize I cannot keep everything. Okay, it’s time to realize I cannot keep most things.

It was a relief to discover today is only Tuesday. I still have most of a week to transfer my physical memories into virtual memories in my head. I still have time to say good-bye. I still have time to buy a bigger suitcase.

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