In the garage right now sit several rows of boxes. Of various shapes, sizes and structural integrity, they are the repository of much of the mementos from my childhood. Things with which at one point in my life I could not bear to part. So teenage me boxed them up and stored them.
Now middle-aged me is going through them. One box at a time.
If my wife had her druthers they’d all be summarily dispatched to the trash can. And who’s to say that isn’t the best or at least the most efficient handling of them? I’ve been slow in going through them. Tediously slow. If I were to make the snap judgement, I’d chalk it up to avoiding an onerous task. However, it really isn’t that. Stepping through each of these many boxes is like opening up a time capsule to an era of my life. There is the box filled with pieces of my childhood: broken radio handsets, planes missing a wing. Plastic elephants the size of a thumbnail. Race cars and Transformers. The things that recall what was my childhood, the small things that brought me some happiness or escape in what was a sometimes tumultuous part of my life. And with them is the memory of my Grandfather, who died nearly 30 years ago.
The things have almost no value in any sense other than the memories that spring forth when I see them after all these years. They’re like little anchors in time for me; complete rubbish to anyone else. There has to be a least a little bit of sadness attached to that realization.
Other boxes hold letters. Letters from my Grandmom, who passed a few years ago. She wrote me and I was always so bad about writing her back, about letting her know how much she meant. And now I cannot ever tell her. Letters from my sister at a time in her life when she probably needed me more than I knew, and I was too busy to make sure she was okay. Letters from girlfriends. These number in the hundreds. Letters, not girlfriends. And though these relationships are, too, dead, I find myself loathe to throw them away. As if they identify me at that point in my life, as if they offer a view of the time and who I was (or who I was perceived to be) at that time. Of course, there’s sadness, here, too. For the inevitable demise of the relationships, months or years removed from the letters’ authoring.
Still more boxes. Boxes packed with awards from high school. Certificates. Trophies. Scholarship letters. Varsity letters. These I find heaping upon me like unspoken expectations that were never fulfilled. Was I supposed to be something else? A conquerer of business and fortune? A great scientist, engineer or astronaut? It’s hard to look at some of these things and not wonder if I’ve pissed away years. Decades?
Pictures fall out here and there. Me as a kid. Me in high school. Me with hair. Me and a girl wrapped around each other, stupid in love. In a way they’re sadly beautiful for their doomed oblivion. No thoughts of ‘what’s next?’, only thoughts of now, of being close. I’d like to say that’s foolishness, but then again, maybe it is far wiser.
And I suppose the hard part–digging through these me-mausoleums–is that I’m ever the dreamer. I cannot help but look forward to the next dream. And so, in a very real way, these boxes lurk like so many unfulfilled dreams. They drag at me, bidding me to look back and linger on things that–i know–are gone and done, dead and buried.