What we keep, what we toss

Stripping files is fun. The shredder hums continuously, making satisfactory chomping sounds. Bags fill up, not too heavy to carry up the stairs and out the door.

Packing books is not hard. Use small boxes, so they don’t get too heavy. Go through them first to get rid of the ones that can make someone else happier than you. Flip through the pages for photos, notes, etc.

Moving boxes

Moving boxes

Then there is the hard stuff. The boxes that contain the torn and worn teddy bear from when I was three years old. The pencil box I tried to make when I was five. An ashtray from 35 years ago, when I thought smoking was cool, but the things that went around smoking–the lighter, the cigarette case, the ashtrays were the fun part. Keep? Why? Throw out? ARRRGH.

So I sat there and looked at the stuff. I haven’t seen it in years. It pushed all the soft buttons of memory and sentiment. Although I don’t really remember the teddy bear, there are photos of me holding it. I do remember the dog who chewed off the ear. Why would I keep this? After a while, it came to me–because I like the person I was when I had the teddy bear. That little girl had possibility. If I put the bear in the landfill, then the little girl’s hopes and dreams weren’t valid, or didn’t materialize. But a lot of her dreams did materialize, and in more interesting and diverse ways than she could ever have imagined. The bear isn’t the dream. Or the possibility. It’s just a torn-up bear with a moth circling out of it.

And the little girl grew up and gave up smoking. I think of living in a house without boxes of old dreams haunting me from the garage, a house where dreams can be lived as is, without guilt. I save the box of my mom’s letters and decide not to save the bear, the ashtray and the black-light posters. A few mementos are enough to last a lifetime.

–Quinn McDonald is moving from Virginia to Arizona. She is a writer and a certified creativity coach. See her work at QuinnCreative.com