Took some time the other day, digging through old things, papers, memory books, photos and other riffraff remnants. Always a jumble of memory and amazement when I root though old things that at best were meant to be ephemeral, but I couldn’t let them disappear.
Just before moving to our current home, Sheryl and I decided we needed to cut down on things littering our closets and storage space. Almost without thinking, she threw out a box of old awards and trophies. I grabbed a box containing high school folders filled with old assignments, class notes, papers and got rid of it . For pack-rats like us, that was a huge moment.
When I was more organized (or maybe had less things and organization was the default), most of this stuff was kept in different boxes. One box for high school things, another for early childhood stuff. I kept mission era letters in a large, clear plastic tub and mission memorabilia in an old suitcase. The letters remain in their tub but everything else has been pared down into one blue plastic storage bin.
This type of organization is great for saving space, but very hard on the memory. Going from item to item, time would skip a year or three, then a decade. I looked at an old photo from my first afternoon in New Hampshire, and knowing my own face pretty well, I saw the fear and nervous excitement I remember feeling. I should say this again, I have never once regretted serving as a missionary, regardless of my current feelings about religion, but those first few months were horrible. I was 19 and alone in the world for the first time. It was very striking to me to see in those eyes, evidence of the words I have written in a journal. The homesickness, the uncertainty, absolutely wishing I was somewhere else, wishing time away. Images from a few months later have happier eyes.
Next, I find an award from high school, followed by a picture of Sheryl and I in Oregon. My mind jumped from place to place, year to year, Ryan to Ryan so rapidly, I felt myself getting dizzy. Stacks of programs from high school dance company recitals (I had crushes, meh), Magazine clippings of favorite tennis players, graduation caps and tassels from three distinct ceremonies, hand made autograph books from 6th and 9th grade, day planners from the first three months of my mission (outlining each hour, each meeting, each moment), baby photos, images of my very young parents, very young me, programs from church services containing names I can’t put with faces, then names that strike at my center, nearly breaking my heart at how what matters so much can, as time passes, come to mean almost nothing . All of this swimming in my head. I looked at each item, and though I intended to throw some things away, I put them all back where they belong.
Long, heavy sighs included.
I need a drink.