There are love letters from old flames, angry poetry from jilted boyfriends, programmes from concerts, brochures from tourist attractions, newsletters , newspaper cuttings, notes from my Mum which read ' saw this card of a rabbit and thought of you' ( she never did write anything lengthy ... and it was usually in shorthand ! ) , sketches, school reports, diaries, ancient primary school drawings, swimming certificates ..... and one of my favourites - a small white certificate from the Surrey County Show for my rabbit Lucy who'd won third place in the 'Rabbit with the Cleanest Feet' category ( I think there were only 2 entries ) .
I have spent the last few weeks reading them all, trying to recall, events and names and faces. I have absolutely no idea what to do with them all. Do I really want to be reminded of the sympathy letters from my mother's and subsequently father's deaths ? There are random photos of old boyfriends - some of whom I didn't even like. Rather hilariously , there's a frame with a photo of the latest young man in my life and I noticed that behind it, there were a whole bunch of others - each one of a different boyfriend , a gallery of past loves each being replaced by the latest. Some have made me laugh out loud and some have made me cry. I am a mess. It's like a tidal wave of emotion and decidely unsettling.
Rather weirdly , one letter was from my mother asking how the antique library chair she had passed on to me was fitting into our new home - I was actually sitting in it as I read that. That completely spooked me out.
The thing is, I am paralysed with indecision. I simply do not know whether to keep or bin them. There are a million choices to be made and I cannot make a single one without fearing that I may regret the decision. Half of them are sitting in a black bin bag under the bed awaiting disposal. I became more ruthless as I waded through the piles of correspondence and so the filling of that bin bag gathered apace after a couple of hours. But I didn't have the courage to actually throw it out and now I'm wondering should I go through them all again a second time ? I couldn't even begin to photogrpah them all for a digital archive unless I had a year to spare.
I've just been online and bought a metal trunk which should be big enough to slide under the bed and look relatively stylish. The idea is that I can fill that but once it's full - that's it - no more. I'm just delaying the decision-making and I know I won't be able to stop at just one trunk. What conceivable purpose could they possibly have in years to come ? I've even got one photograph of my sister and I looking suitable morose at the funeral parlour having just chosen a coffin for Dad - what were we thinking having that taken ?
In ten or twenty years time, will I really want to unearth them all over again and given that my memory will be even worse by then, will I be left puzzled by who these people were and what on earth had gone on to elicit such a response ?
So, assuming that this digital memory will survive , I'm recording a few passing thoughts about what I've learned from reading each and every single one.
- Despite thinking that my parents barely gave me a bean during my student years - they were actually very generous and sent me fivers and tenners through the post with a short note attached saying 'pay off your overdraft' or 'buy fresh fruit'
- I think I must have dumped every boyfriend by post ( today's equivalent would be by text I suppose ) judging by the painful replies I collected bemoaning my 'heartlessness' . I realise now that if a young man asked me out , I always felt obliged to say yes having not learnt the art of a polite refusal. I don't think I particularly wanted to go out with many of them and so usually ended up letting the relationship drag on beyond its shelf life and then chickening out by breaking it off by way of an apologetic letter.
- I must have implied that I liked the cartoon dog Peanuts at some stage, judging by the hundreds of Snoopy cards I received over a decade. I didn't but was too polite to say.
- My friend Jan ( the Pan ) had the funniest sense of humour.
- I had a bit of a thing for RAF Pilots !
- Looked like I sent a lot of cards and letters that cheered people up , judging by their grateful replies.
- We all wore flares and had bad perms
I must have been either very sentimental or determined to unhinge my older self by keeping all these memories. Little did I know that years later I would be slumped on the edge of my bed wondering why on earth I didn't appreciate the amazing life that I was living and the wonderful oppurtunities and life-changing experiences that I had been granted. Maybe re-discovering them all these years later was the purpose behind keeping them ... just to remind me that you have to carpe that old diem and make every moment count. Time to stop wallowing and move on or maybe just get out my flares and have my hair permed.