A tough reality: There’s no biographer waiting to go through my papers and if there were, I’d die from embarrassment. Therefore, what the hell do I do with all my stuff when I go home to Worland, Wyo. to face the mess?
My parents saved my letters starting when I left for college. (Did I whine as much as I suspect?) They clipped my newspaper articles and what else? My mother neatly stacked mounds of paper in her dry basement and when the mounds got messy, she boxed them. Then I started shipping home boxes of papers to store, which meant I could save my memories while I lived in one-bedroom apartments or went on the road for months at a time. I soared free from paper possessions. Eleven years ago, we sold our parents’ home. Since then, my generous brother, Mike, has paid monthly rent on a storage garage in Worland.
At first, the garage made sense. We –Mike and our sister, Debbie–had excess furniture and sentimental artifacts from Mother and Dad and their parents and grandparents. But now, the mess of collapsed, damp, stinky boxes.
The reality: my four nephews and their families probably won’t wants my belongings–the NYT says even kids don’t want their parents’ stuff. I’m assuming though that the next gen will cherish some of the same family mementos that energize me, like my grandparents and parents’ rings. (If you have time, you might enjoy watching Touchstones, my first digital story.)
Solutions and excuses
— I should just load the boxes into a ranch pickup and take them out to the city dump, douse them with kerosine and torch ’em. [Mike says you can’t burn at the dump anymore and, besides, I’m slightly curious what’s in them.
— Ed Angel, founder of the historical research firm, Morgan Angel, said that my newspaper clips probably were digitized, so I could toss the papers. [I just checked. The digital era of the Carmel Pine Cone started 44 years after I left. My Billings Gazette clips are available, but only photos are archived from my years at the LA Herald Examiner. I’ve written hundreds of articles. Do I want them all? Do I want any of them? I have copies of the magazines where I was editor-in-chief. That’s enough for the bonfire later. Isn’t it?]
— Susan Fifer Canby, emeritus director of the National Geographic Libraries and Archives, advised me to set aside three days to read through and enjoy my past, save a couple of things and bid the rest farewell. [Will I savor the three days? Will I cringe at my writing? Will I feel sad? Nostalgic? Annoyed and hurt again? I like my life now. Better? Still future thinking? Yes. I think.
Can I stop dodging reality?
A couple of years ago, Mike insisted that I go over to the garage and deal with the boxes. “I’ll take a look,” I said. We drove over the river to the locked line-up of aluminum storage garages. I looked at the mess and got back in the car. “Wait!” he said. “What
are you going to do?” “I told you I’d look at it,” I said. “I did.”
However, it is time to be a grown-up. I’m going to Worland in late September to deal with the boxes. Mike doesn’t believe it will happen.