I’ve been on another cleaning tear lately, either because it’s spring or because it simply distracts my mind from bigger thoughts. I suppose either is a valid excuse, really.
This weekend I opened up a box that’s been sitting around for a while. Hell, I’ve probably carried it through my last two moves. Inside was a random collection of stuff, most of which was so old and outdated (“have I really been hauling around that newspaper clipping for all these years?”) that it was pretty easy to throw most of it away or in recycling.
Near the bottom of the box, though, I ran into something totally unexpected. As yet, I’ve not decided what to do with these:
Neatly folded and organized, and carefully stored in a plastic bag, was this pile of letters. Old correspondence from my early college years, just before everyone started shifting to e-mailing on old UNIX servers.
They’re letters from high school friends, sent to a homesick lad in his first couple of years living in San Francisco. Some are from random high school friends I lost touch with a long time ago. Others are from the girl I briefly dated at the end of high school, who would later dump me for one of the friends in our group. Still others were from a close high school friend who became born-again and who would later, after six years of knowing each other, end our friendship because, as a single man, I represented a “threat” to the good Christian marriage she was about to enter in to.
A “threat to her marriage.” That’s a heck of a charge to level against a late-bloomer of a twenty-year-old, you have to admit. Especially after six years of friendship and attending different colleges two hundred miles apart. Still makes for an interesting story two decades later, though.
I haven’t read the letters yet. Apart from taking them out of the bag and spreading them out for the photograph above, I haven’t done anything with them, really. Mostly they just sit on my coffee table and I stare at them every so often.
They’re almost twenty years old, written correspondence of a life and social structure that feels a very long time ago. Part of me has a nostalgic vibe and wants to keep them. They are, after all, memories and reminders of who I was and what was going on in my life in those days.
Another part of me wants to take them on my next camping trip, read them one last time, and throw them into the campfire. The past is the past, after all.
For the moment, though, there they sit, on the coffee table, still neatly folded and organized in their plastic bag. The one I’ve been hauling around, apparently, for a score of years now. So long that I’d even forgotten of their existence yet, now that I’ve rediscovered them, find myself unsure of whether or not to part with them.
Keep or burn? What would you do?