I love things vintage, so you can imagine that I don’t always have an easy time getting rid of…um…stuff.
But, I am trying genuinely hard to downsize and have lately been embracing the experience as an opportunity to curate my…um…stuff down to the things that I truly, truly love, have space for, and use very frequently.
To quote Yoda (which seems apropos recently):
Donated, I did, the rhinoceros doo-dahs I used to collect.
Still, today as I was going through drawers in my craft room/office, I came upon a cache of old greeting cards we’ve received. I save (too) many cards because it feels like a way to make them worth at least some of the paper and glitter and money that people have invested in them. I’m writing this with glitter in my eyebrows and socks so trust me when I say there’s plenty of glitter and think about it: cards are a whole lot of environmental and fiscal energy that get read in under 10 seconds. Then later, you toss them away.
Except, if you’re me of course, who collects cards like a chipmunk collecting nuts for winter.
Insert “she’s a hoarder in denial” theme song here.
Anyway, I save them for a while (okay, fine, I found one today dated 2004) and then spend time with a big stack, while watching TV or listening to music. I cut out the bits I want to re-use with my pinking shears and fashion them into gift tags which I will (and do) use later.
(See, you thought I was just making this up, didn’t you?)
Some of you are snickering, I’m sure, but it really does make me feel as if I’ve extended the life of cards for at least one more round.
(Just pretend it’s wartime and we’re rationing stuff.)
Long ago (like, until last year), I used to save cards for sentimental reasons but I have eschewed sentimentality (or tried to) lately. I have been sensible and rational and only kept a sampling of cards from my years of teenage angst and youthful adventures (in the plastic Harrod’s bag I got while working on Oxford Street in London, the year I was 20.) Okay, fine, and I also have the Harvey’s hamburger wrapper my friend, Ugly Orange Sweater Guy, wrote me a letter on while I was languishing without Harvey’s in England, the year I was 16/17, but I’m sure you can agree that a letter written on a Harvey’s wrapper is an artifact well worth hoarding—I mean, preserving.
Anyhoo, while cutting and chopping, pinking and punching today, I found some treasures.
Two cards from my old friend, Little Julie, who became an angel to her husband and three, young sons, a few years ago, after cancer.
I could hear her voice as I read her words.
What a gift, I thought, and tried to blink away the tears.
Then, a card from my Grandma Helen, gone now for nearly a decade (I can’t believe it).
Signed the same way, her cards always were:
All my love back to you, Grandma.
It’s lovely how someone’s handwriting can immediately bring them to you. I wonder, in this age of so little handwriting anymore, will we have lost the chance to re-connect for those brief moments with people we have known and loved?
Then, cards from Practical Man’s German Mutti (now, sadly, living with dementia) and his Canadian mother, (cancer took her, too.)
I know that the um…stuff…is not the same as the person. I’ve watched the shows and chanted those mantras to myself. I’ve even photographed said stuff and then let it go.
But, I recently received the book my dad and aunt wrote about my great-grandparents. In it, there is a sweet and flirty letter my great-grandma wrote to my great-grandfather, while they were dating. There are tender and lonely letters my great-grandfather wrote to his wife and children while he was in the sanitorium for tuberculosis for two years. There is even the original hotel bill from my great-grandparents honeymoon night in Chicago in 1923:
Meaningless stuff, you might say.
I obviously come from a long line of hoarders, you might say.
And, you might be right.
But, to those angels who touched my shoulders today and other days: thank you for visiting.
We miss you.