Keep it or Throw it Away? Why we save things

I tend to be a saver.  Not an out-of-control packrat, but a saver.  I save books, photographs, letters, papers, cards, report cards, etc.  I also saved almost all the clothes that my children wore as babies and toddlers, regardless of the condition.  I just couldn’t part with the memory of each of them being so little.  The clothes were tangible evidence, more so than photographs, that they were once tiny babies.

When my grandson was born, I went down to the basement to see if any of the baby clothes I’d saved were usable.  For the most part, they weren’t.  Things were stained, stretched out, out of style—not what you’d put on a new baby.  So I had to decide what to do.  Throw them away? Put them back in the boxes?  I weeded through them, saving the ones that triggered particular memories: the purple corduroy outfit that both girls wore when they were toddlers, the Snoopy outfit that my older daughter wore almost every day when her sister was born and we were both too tired to fight with her about what to wear; sweaters my mother had knit, a few special party dresses.  The ones that were badly stained and not wearable I threw away.  All the rest I put back in the boxes anyway, not having the heart to throw them away just yet.

Now I am glad that I did keep some of these things.  One of the pictures Jody sent me a couple of weeks ago was this picture:


Imagine—these booties are almost 100 years old.  My aunt Elaine was born in 1917, my uncle Maurice in 1919.  Someone saved these and pinned a label to them to identify them for posterity as the booties of Elaine and Maurice.  There were not a lot of material objects passed on from my grandparents, but here is one that says so much.  They, too, cherished their babies, wanted to preserve the memories of them as tiny babies, and held on to something tangible to keep those memories alive.  And it worked—I now can imagine those babies and my grandparents as new parents, probably as overwhelmed, exhausted and delirious as all new parents, but also in love with those babies.

So I guess I won’t be getting rid of the baby clothes yet.  Maybe some time in the 2080s, a great-grandchild will find a box with a sweater, a Snoopy outfit, a purple corduroy jacket, and imagine the children who once wore them.

Enhanced by Zemanta