The surprises just kept coming.
When I moved in with Peter a few years back, I brought my clothes, a few books, and some artwork. I rented out my house, gave away my furniture, and everything else was consigned to “things I’ll deal with later,” a pile which—mysteriously—did not shrink with time. These stacked plastic boxes were still in my barn, still waiting for me, long after I’d forgotten what was in them or cared.
But I am going to put the property up for sale and it was time for a reckoning with the barn. It took two dumpsters, four days, and two hardworking guys from the appropriately named, “Git-er-Gone Junk & Clutter Removal,” to see it to the end.
And, yes, I did think, “Why not just dump it all, sight unseen?”
But then, what to do with all the surprises found in the boxes of photos and letters and trinkets? Obviously, most of them would be thrown away, recycled, or given to the thrift store. But what about that piece of blown glass from Norway, the postcard from grandpa when he served overseas, the bright red wool jacket handsewn by my aunt that was still stylish. Anyone who’s done this knows—it’s not that easy.
So, I piled a few boxes in my car (“kicking the can down the road” Peter called it, “saving my sanity,” is how I described it) to sort through after everything else was out of the barn.
Yesterday I sorted through a box entirely filled with letters. I discovered that I had saved every postcard and letter I had received since childhood. No, I did not read every one. It turns out that descriptions of what happened in school or how someone spent their vacation makes for extraordinarily dull reading forty years later. But I sampled a few letters in each of the neatly stacked piles that filled the huge storage box before I put them in recycling.
“Oh my gosh,” I kept saying, “I had forgotten about that entirely.”
I forgot my younger sister wrote to me with such regularity when I went away to college. I forgot friends I’d spent a summer with and never saw again. I forgot the letters sent by a friend after our little high school group went off to college and he was left alone, still living at home.
I’m living in the Twilight Zone, he wrote, and don’t even have Rod Serling to comfort me. To the obvious response, “Meet new people,” I can only remind you of the great difficulty I have in doing just that.”
But, I have a solution, the letter went on, I’m going to marry a princess of some European country that they forgot to tell us about in 11th grade. Maybe it didn’t fight in either of the world wars, or is really small. Anyway, I going to find this country, marry this princess and show all you women a thing or two. So there!
My heart hurt, reading this forty-year-old letter. I wondered if I wrote back. I hoped he was doing well. Then I realized, (unlike forty years ago) this was relatively easy to determine. I logged onto Facebook.
And there he was, looking remarkably the same—but with a smiling dark-haired wife and two grown daughters and what appeared to be a very happy life.
As the last pile of letters went into the bin, I stood still for a moment and smiled—with dusty hands and a full heart. “You didn’t need Rod Serling after all,” I thought.