Thursday, June 12, 2008

Searching for Treasure

We moved into our current home last October.
At the time that we moved I had a fresh case of mononucleosis, as well as pneumonia, and bronchitis. Also sinusitis, which hardly seems worth mentioning except for its small contribution to my overall feeling of having been run over by a steamroller.
I spent the winter living with mono, an little virus that, like the boll weevil, was lookin' for a home, and found one in me. I knitted, and slept, and watched movies, and slept, and read, and slept. I did have enough energy to complain about my lack of energy. I'm better now, still tiring easily but bouncing back in a few days. Last winter I didn't have an ounce of bounce in me.
Now that I have a little more energy, I'm starting to do things I have put off for a long time, like unpack the boxes we threw stuff into when we moved last fall. Early excavations reveal that I have enough pens, pencils, and blank paper to supply a small stationery store. I have been shoveling writing implements into my desk drawer and have been piling blank notebooks and sketchbooks on bookshelves.
Having dealt with that layer, I have hit the real silt and sludge of daily life: boxes and boxes of photographs, files, clippings, songs, poems, letters, receipts, bills, catalogues, instruction booklets for gadgets we threw out years ago, and other non-specific memorabilia.
The difficulty attached to these items is that I feel I have to look at each one. What is it? Why do we still have it? Do I wish to keep it, and if not, do I recycle it, shred it and then recycle it, or toss it? If I keep it, then where do I keep it? It's a tedious process and I find myself talking to myself: "Well, pretty easy to see why I've been ignoring this stuff."
There was a reason that each item ended up in one of these boxes. The reason might have been as solid as my belief that I have to keep bank statements for seven years, or forever; I can never remember which. Pictures of the kids at any stage of their development – gotta keep those! Letters from our long gone mothers? Keepers. That chunk of Scharffen Berger chocolate? Score! Or at least I thought it was a score, until I nibbled off a bite. It doesn't taste nearly as good after nine months in a box.
What I'm looking for is treasure. The treasures are what keep me going back to those dusty boxes and their dusty contents. They're in there, in between the terribly important notices that came in the mail that I meant to read later.
My husband and I aim to travel into our so-called golden years (my husband says that we are now "nouveau elderly") with a lighter load. The immediate goal is to have an emptier, tidier home. It is tedious work to do an archaeological dig on your own life, but it seems to be necessary to deal with the past before you're free to enjoy the present. Also, there will be fewer things to trip over in the house, and that becomes more important as we get older. It will be easier to find and enjoy the things that have meaning – what's the point of a treasure you can't find, or enjoy?
We are also saving our sons the tedious job of doing this after we're gone. They of course would just shovel everything into a dumpster, and don't think I haven't thought of doing that myself, but there is so much to shovel, and honestly, there is treasure in there. Not the money kind, the heart kind.
That's what I'm looking for as I pick up each item, dust it off, figure out what it is, and make a decision. Not exciting work but worthwhile in the end.

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