Thursday, January 3, 2013

The things we keep

I'm a sentimental person.  I can tear up at a commercial and, in general, avoid movies featuring children and most country music because I just can't handle the emotion.  However, my emotional nature is stirred more by words triggering memories than by objects.  I don't hang onto much, don't do collections, and my kids have already learned to look through the recycling bin for their most recent artwork (I do have a heart and save special pieces, though).  There are few family photos on the walls, although I have entire galleries on my computer and a box of treasured prints to flip through.  I have saved all of my husband's sweet love notes, and we continue the tradition started when we were poor seminary students of writing a love letter to each other every Christmas.

Something is happening to me, though, and I blame it on the wrinkles that are joining the party started by the gray hairs several years ago. As I get older, I'm alarmed by how quickly entire periods of my life and identity have been wiped from my memory.  My husband and I often play the game, "What did we do before we had children?" because it truly is a mystery to us.  I remember snippets of our intense and brief time of dating which was the most beautiful time of my life up to then, but now it is almost reduced to fragments and a vague sense of how I felt at the time (oh to be young and in love). 

I was cleaning out our storage area the other day and came across all of our old albums and scrapbooks (ah, that must have been what we did before kids...make records of all the inconsequential things we did!).  Flipping through took me back to the births of our children, our honeymoon, our wedding, seminary, college, and high school, and magically reversed the aging process.  There were pictures of people I couldn't name and faded memories I couldn't place.  More than forgetting the events was the loss of forgetting who I was then, what I felt, what I had dreamed.  Have I yet realized those dreams?

I found a travel journal from a trip to Europe shortly after my high school graduation (oh, to have that opportunity again).  I recognized pieces of the snarky girl who mostly complained about all the wonders she was experiencing (I guess not everything has changed).  I found myself, for once, wanting to hang on to it all, to recapture some of the experiences, the feelings.  The power of nostalgia is strong...even though was so anxious to move on from those times that I seemingly banished them from memory, now I wonder what I'm missing.  I remembered that when we moved to this house from our old one, John convinced me to get rid of some trophies I had earned in high school.  He, in jest, told me to "lay my trophies down", just as some have said we are expected to lay our crowns at Jesus' feet in heaven.  I have joked since that I miss those awards as they are proof that I was once smart, that I was destined to succeed.  And here I am, right where I want to be, but still living in doubt.

What is it about age that makes us look back?  There is nothing that I had then that I miss, and nothing now that I lack.  Is it the fear of time running out, and longing to return to a time when we felt invincible and eternal?  Is it the hope and promise of youth (and realizing that we misspent so much of it?)

This time, I decided I needed something to keep.  A visual reminder of what has been.  Not because I long to return or desire to live in the past, but to remember the memories of the times that have made me who I am(or at least have symbols of some of what I've experienced and forgotten) .  I pulled out my high school letter (earned in band), and many of my academic and club medals and put them in a glass container in my office (where my husband can't find it and tease me...shh....).  It's on a low shelf, mostly out of sight, but is there for those days when I need to be reminded of who I have become.

 And I took a picture of myself today, with new wrinkles and scraggly gray hairs, for the me I'm becoming to look back on one day fondly, reminded of, if not quite remembering, the journey I took to get there.

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