February 1, 2016
If I am a hoarder, it is a hoarder of experiences. Because I don’t trust my recall, I collect memories. Photographs pressed into scrapbooks and photo albums. Smiling faces transformed into personal artwork behind ornate frames.
We inhabit a small place, and little dwellings have limited wall space. Thus, my collection of memories must be slimmed to allow displays. I overlay older eight by ten glossies with updated smiles. Opening the back of a picture frame is like a mini-time capsule or an archaeological dig site. Years strip away from family members. Eleventh grade, tenth, ninth, and on to kindergarten. Darling smiles lose teeth, exchange milky baby grins exchanged by the tooth fairy for orthodontically-enhanced grins. Styles evolve. Hairstyles change. Maturity replaces baby fullness. I run a finger along the changed profiles, recalling the peculiarities particular of each age, each person.
In previous letters, I’ve mentioned the flooding we’ve experienced. With the onslaught of water came a desire to streamline my possessions. I weighed the values of items kept to repair or sell. I donated things I’d not touched in the last year and discarded things ruined by the onslaught of mildew and mold. I hardened myself, knowing emotional attachment to things is a foolish pursuit. Things break down and decay, after all. At least, that’s what I recall from church school lessons, and it has been my experience. Silly to mourn their loss.
But then I came upon my photographs. Ink blurred and smeared on many. I slumped to the floor cradling an album overrun by patterns of black mold. The clear, pvc-free folders designed to protect the images clung to the surface with rippling tenacity. Removing a photo from its sleeve damaged it, ripping parts of the picture. With trembling hands and excruciating care, I struggled to preserve what I could of cherished mementos from bygone activities. Much of it will occupy a landfill as the result of my inadequate efforts. Each failure thickened the growing lump in my throat. My Alexi as a two year old in her first tutu. S-Bear sitting for the first time. Memories from when first we merged our households, Andy’s and mine. M-man’s first steps. Each destroyed image fluttered to rest among its mates, solemn as prayer.
Memories are tricky things, too. Dates flit from my recollection, and motivations skirt my comprehension. Details soften and muddy with the passage of time. The unforgiving fact of my fallible and flawed mental capacity is why I cherish mementoes and photographs. Even the painful recollections deserve respect and preservation. Thus, I suppose I’ll remain an unabashed hoarder of experiences distrustful of my own flighty mind. I’ll labor to safeguard them for myself and for posterity.
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