When I moved into my first apartment after college, I had a hand-me-down coffee table with a shallow drawer. It soon turned into a temporary time capsule. It held my year's paper minutia – movie stubs, wedding invitations, concert programs –things I wanted to keep but didn't have a particular place to store it. That first New Years I pulled out all of the stuff and conducted a year in review. As I looked through the drawer's contents, I reflected on the ups and downs of my year and then packed it away, labeled it “Memorabilia 1997” and started with an empty drawer for 1998.
This ritual has continued for the past 18 years with a few tweaks. The coffee table moved on to my sister's home and the warped top was repaired. Since then my annual artifacts have resided in an orangy-caramel colored Samsonite train case.
Last December, I decided that it was time to go through two rubbermaid tubs worth of Memorabilia-labeled manilla envelopes. It was cathartic, cleansing, and actually a lot of fun. I pared down my collections sometimes consolidating several year's worth of paper into one or two envelopes rather than the original three or four.
I also decided to return some of the things to the people who had been connected to the items. Baby's first Christmas photo went back to the family. I liked the idea of them opening an envelope and finding a little blast from their own past attached to my reflections on what it meant to me to be included.
To keep some sort of control on the amount of stuff I save, I've now implemented a new tweak: I'll look at the envelope dated ten years past as I put the newly labeled envelope in the bin. Today I reviewed “Memorabilia 2005.”
Some of the things I was reminded of:
Emails from beloved college and work friends
Programs for Rent and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Fabulous Fox Theatre (I completely forgot that I had seen them there.)
The Playbill for Wicked also at the Fox. I DO remember that one!
Ticket stubs for Monticello from our Thanksgiving visit with family in Virginia
The program from my first and only piano recital. I played Silver Inches by Enya and Nicky Ryan.
Ticket stubs for the movies Hitch, The Longest Yard, and Producers
A tentative itinerary for my trip to England and Czech Republic in March
A rejection letter from Real Simple magazine when I pitched a story idea
My invitation to a new book club – our first selection was The Kite Runner
This ritual nourishes me. It provides me with perspective and helps me to be grateful for the goodness in my life. I was still two years from becoming a parent in 2005. This past year's memorabilia has a much different feel:
Lots of homemade love notes from my first/second grader
A note from a fellow writer-friend encouraging my writing pursuits
Handwritten letters from two of my favorite pen pals, Laurie and Tammy
Handwritten apologies from my daughter – working our way through the tense moments of being a spirited parent and a spirited kiddo
My expired driver's license – issued in 2008
Meeting Codetalker, Chester Nez, one week before he died
A postcard from Florence, Italy
Attending THE MOST beautiful wedding in August
Our first week at family camp with dear friends
The support and friendships that occur through social media
Another camping first: Labor Day weekend at Camp Tuckaho with Girl Scout friends
Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host – a “moms gone wild” evening out
Watching The Voice and loving Pharrell and Gwen
A letter response from my high school English teacher
These envelopes don't tell any one year's complete story, but they are great reminders of the highs and lows as time marches on. I'm particularly excited to go through my train case this time next year after I've experienced my 40/40 bucket list. I am determined to make 2015 one fantastic year.