Marie “somebody or other” took the country by storm by declaring we should only keep the things that “bring us joy.” Everything else should GO! When I heard that, my thought was, well, on a bad day, that could be a sloppy husband or a disobedient kid, or even, the dog, when he chews up your best slippers. They are definitely not “bringing us joy” at that moment. There’s also that other rule, “if you haven’t used it in a year, off to the dump or the thrift store.”
During a recent spring closet cleaning in my office, I discovered lots of things that should have been long gone under one or both of those rules…
…a small box of cassette tapes of my son’s piano recital, age 10, and my daughter’s performance in a speech contest, age 12. He is now fifty and can only play chopsticks. She is forty-five and hates speaking in public. I can now play those tapes and say, “See, you should have kept practicing!”
…a box of old photos from the 70’s of my Sweet Adeline barbershop chorus. Our show theme one year was “Fairy Tales,” and we were all in different costumes depicting our favorite fairy tale, cartoon, or Disney character. I was in a tiny Wonder Woman costume that barely covered my 110 lb. skinny frame. Well, maybe that could have gone out. Today’s comparison is pretty depressing. Although, I am still trying to BE Wonder Woman, just without the costume.
…a shoebox overflowing with old birthday and Christmas cards from people whose names I barely remember. Yes, I did look at every single one and I’m glad I did. Hidden among the throw-aways, a birthday card from my grandfather the year he died, and tucked inside, a dollar bill. He sent one to each grandchild every year, even after we’d grown up.
…two plastic storage boxes full of gloves and mittens with no mates. Maybe I thought they would find their way home someday? No joy there – gone!
…my high school and college yearbooks, certainly not used in a year or twenty+ years. Do they bring me joy? Sure, remembering the friendships, the innocence, and the fun, but joy tinged with sadness that so many of those friends are gone now. I received a note from a classmate the other day, saying, “We need to schedule a class reunion soon. We’re dropping like flies!” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
…folders of yellowed newspaper clippings about celebrities, world events – Kennedy’s assassination; Jane Fonda protesting the Vietnam War; planes flying into the Trade Center; an entire folder of stories about Elvis Presley’s death. Yes, I did love him, I confess! Is there joy in those souvenirs of the past? Not exactly, but they are potent reminders of trials and tribulations we all survived together.
I haven’t saved any clippings about the multitudes of people, worldwide, who have fallen victim to the coronavirus. The numbers change too quickly. The pain is still too deep. But someday, I trust, we will look back and be able to say we survived this trial and tribulation, too.
So, Marie, I opened a lot of doors to the past this week that wouldn’t have been there if I’d listened to your advice. Those walks down memory lane brought me joy, some sadness, some closure, but most importantly, the reassurance that this awful time, too, will pass.
SHARON CANFIELD DORSEY is an award-winning poet and author of four children’s books; a memoir, Daughter of the Mountains; a book of poetry, Tapestry; and a travel memoir, Road Trip. WATCH FOR A NEW POETRY BOOK, WALK WITH ME, OUT THIS SUMMER.