Boxes upon boxes fill my storage room, formerly known as my basement. It has been my job the past few weeks to begin to unpack sort, and re stack or throw away the junk that we inadvertently hauled with us in our last move. The first few days were easy, no-brainer types of culling: the skates don’t fit, so give them away. The magazines are outdated and not worth saving, so don’t.
But now, I am onto the not so easy task of children’s art, photographs, and correspondence. What do I keep of my now teenage sons’ childhood? What treasures do I cast the way of the recycling bin? What treasures do I keep from my younger children’s childhood? They seem to create masterpiece every other day… Yet, I must choose.
My solution has been to categorize the photographs into themes: my personal photographs include pre-family life, and ancestors, and then my family life. But each time I open a box I feel like I’ve been sucked into a time vortex whipping me around my past until I can barely stand. It’s much like a near death experience with my life flashing before my eyes, except for the near death part. I can only take so much of it.
I prefer to dwell in the present, plan the future and occasional look over my shoulder into yesterday, so this is a rather trippy task at hand. But I am determined. If I do not do it, then all my children’s photos will live in boxes and they won’t ever really look at the pictures of themselves from the pre-digital era, but instead they’ll have the reams of bytes they post on their Facebook.
That in itself isn’t bad, but there is something to be said about the tactile experience of flipping the pages a photo album or a scrapbook. I found three Christmas cards sent to three of my four children by their paternal great grandparents who were in their 90s, and inside each card is a crisp taped in place ten-dollar bill. The handwriting is large and deliberate, and signed with hugs and kisses xxx ooo. These were the last cards they sent as they both passed away within the following year. How can a digital card replace the cursive script of a grandparent, the crayon scrawl of a child? It can’t. So I don’t try; instead I save, sort and now work on displaying these treasures in a way that my family can enjoy now and perhaps for sometime to come as well.
Yesterday I assembled the Christmas album with years of Santa knee portraits, a letter from Santa, and the bill-filled cards. It was fun, and there are still several empty pages yet to fill.
Then there are the virtual boxes that are disguised as well organzed files on my hard-drive, where photos collect virtual dust as they hadn’t been opened more than once after they were loaded to my computer. This means more time, more hours sorting, sifting and then printing images and filing into real physical albums…
Today, I might take a break—stay in the present and allow the vortex to whirl about in the box without me—it’s not like it’s going anywhere. Then tomorrow, perhaps I’ll take on the ‘sports’ photos, or the ‘school’ photos… Halloween, dress-up ones would be okay too. If I were to try to sort them all into some sort of chronological order, it would be a task I’d likely never do. This way, I find some joy in my time-tripping. Then one of these days, I’ll post a few of my treasure–the one’s that exist in the tactile world, but for now the virtual will have to do.