The walk down memory lane a few weekends ago registered more steps on the pedometer than usual...the requisite Sterilite(TM) tub held information dating back to at least 1993, if not before. I visited old friends, old lovers, old would-be lovers, etc. In particular, though, it struck me the way that lovers enter and exit your life - each one with its own unique story, complete with a secret shared language. Some of them disappate completely from that landscape with relative ease, with only a picture or two of them staring up at you from a frame that used to be featured prominently in your every day living space. The mementos make you suffer from that temporary punch-in-the-throat feeling of guilt or regret...others are dismissed with a laugh and an eye roll...still others with whole books dedicated to letters, ticket stubs, vacation pictures, birthday and holiday cards, notes sent with flowers or left on the refrigerator. Even your name in that world might have been changed. Ordinary words leap off the page that were part of that language and that, spoken by any other person, seem somehow out of place. Out of context, out of this world.
Lately, I've been in a purging kind of mood. Aside from books, I pretty much want to get rid of everything. Old framed art that I don't love anymore, DVDs leftover from a reality where I felt like I had time to kill and kill and kill again, CDs that have been replaced 3 or 4 times over from Dan's music collection (aside from a few guilty pleasures that I'll have to keep for myself), etc. Just STUFF.
Ironically, I'm a closet packrat. When I was 14 or so, my friends Jessi, Teresa and I stayed up all night long and walked to Steak 'n' Shake at about 5:00am. On the way there we found a little plastic chipmunk figurine (Dale, of Chip and Dale, not to be confused with Chippendale) in the street. I still have it. I also have a piece of the curb outside the Walgreens we waited outside of to buy nail polish and conditioner. The mementos bring that night back like it was yesterday, even though it wasn't particularly distinctive from any of the other weird teenage nights she and I spent together. The story removes the memento from the STUFF category. I love to remember that night, when we walked straight up the middle of Big Bend Blvd. in St. Louis, with no cars on the road, no sign that there was anyone else in the world except the 3 of us.
The other things in the box are a little more complicated. Some hold pleasant memories, but all of those worlds crumbled for a reason. The more time I spend with Dan - the closer we get with each day, each vacation, each ticket stub - the more room it takes up. Those mementos still aren't STUFF, but there's less physical and emotional room for them, and they become part of the need to purge to make room for the new, the now, the future.