Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sorting Memories

So quickly it’s over. For weeks, even months, I have thought about the holidays, made plans for the holidays, hoped I would get it all done for the holidays. Then suddenly the holidays are gone. Halloween hit. Thanksgiving crept up. Then Christmas charged in. After a few too many chips with dip, the New Year also slid right by. And now it’s time to turn the page of the calendar, and welcome this new year. The Y2K scare is way behind us and this fresh decade stands at attention, waiting for its own glory.

I’ve been around the block enough to know how it all goes. I make optimistic resolutions. I anticipate all the great stuff that will be coming our way in the next twelve months, and then I sit back and hope for the best. And many good things will come. My oldest child will graduate from high school and begin her college career. Her younger brother will begin his senior year and be in his own countdown. Their two younger brothers will experience fun life events, through sports, friends, school, and family activities.

But the realist in me is reminded that every year also brings bad things, even sad things. I have a friend who has already lost a parent this year. Another is fighting off a new round of cancer. It will be a year of phone calls that don’t bring good news. Maybe it will be car wrecks and scary medical diagnosis. There’s a chance the car will break down (more than once, even) and at least one major appliance will decide to quit working. We live in an unstable world. Any of that stuff can happen.

But we’ll do like we have in the past year, and the year before that. We will answer the phone and face the adversity. We will rally behind those that need an extra boost and be humble enough to ask for help when the needy one is looking back at us in the bathroom mirror. Because I truly believe that’s what life’s about. Being here for each other, making the best possible life we can out of what comes our way. And living each day with purpose.

So if I truly believe all that warm fuzzy talk I have to do the practical things to live it out. I have to make plans for how it’s going to be. Whether I call them resolutions or promises to myself, whether I write them down or just dwell on them in my head, it’s time to start fresh. It’s time to grab this new decade by the tail and swing it around a few times.

I’ve already jumped into one project. There will be time for fitness goals, cooking goals (meaning I plan to actually do some cooking this year) and writing goals. For the first two days of 2010 I was sorting and making stacks. Spring cleaning has begun. There were two plastic bins that had been haunting me for years. I have moved them from house to house, and with every move I kept telling myself I would deal with them later. I finally decided that later is NOW.

The reason these tubs haunt me is sentimental. They are mostly full of paperwork that I don’t know what to do with. Not old bill statements or tax receipts. Those would be easy to file away and throw away. These are important papers, things that mean something to me but have no logical home.

As I dug through these tubs I was sent lumbering down memory lane. The newsletter I sent out to my friends and family my first Christmas in college. Such a great reminder of what I was doing in those years and what was important to me. My mom’s personal notebook, her hopes and dreams written out in her beautiful handwriting that I miss so much. It’s an insight into her world when I was just a child and I can’t bear to throw it away.

And in the middle of the tub, between college mementos from decades ago and special letters I’ve received in just the past few years, are years and years worth of other treasures. Wedding invitations, baby announcements, cards from grandparents now long gone - a virtual time capsule of my life.

I had promised myself I’d be brutal. There was no sense keeping all this extra stuff. It is healthy to clean out and throw away. But as I sorted, touched and read each treasure I thought about this new year coming. How many new memories will be made. Life will keep hurling forward and with it will come the good and the bad.

I kind of like this stroll down memory lane. Being reminded of how little our first house cost and what my son’s preschool handprint looked like dipped in messy red paint. What’s the harm in having at least a little stash of happy reminders? Reminders of the good stuff and the sweet stuff. The stuff that makes it all worthwhile.

I’ve finished sorting those two tubs. One item checked off the to-do list. But I have to admit the trash bag only got to claim a few of those papers. I’ve pared it down to one tub. A tub of paper treasures I have no problem keeping.

If only to take me back to all those memories on another day, when I once again need to be reminded of all the good things that each new year can bring.

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