I spent most of this morning in the attic above the garage. It’s a true testament to how much I love my parents that I actually went up there to clear the space for them, because if there are two things I really really do not like it’s ladders and heights. Later we moved down to the basement and up came one of those big plastic boxes simply marked “papers.” This afternoon, while my father rested and my son bounced about in the living room, my mother and I dived into it.
It was like a treasure trove of lost memories. Letters from when my father was first stationed in the Middle East. Old passports, photographs, report cards, songs from family parties. I never knew that my grandfather kept a little diary when he came to visit us in Saudi Arabia. The first rejection letter I ever received was tucked away in there, along with the handwritten story I had sent in to one of the woman’s magazines my grandmother bought every week. I was eleven.
I never knew that my great-grandfather’s greatest wish was a Meerschaum pipe. I found the letter he wrote to my grandfather, his son-in-law, the morning a parcel arrived with not one, but two pipes. ‘Are you nuts? I was so happy, this is something I have wanted all my life, but to buy me two … at those prices!’
I thought about my son. Will he ever have a big box of memories to drag up from the basement? I fear not. He will be able to scroll through the cloud to look at old photos, but there’s something much more special about holding a photo in your hand as you pass it across the table. He will not have to try and decipher handwritten letters because we hardly have any. Sitting here tonight, I can’t help but feel a little sad at the thought of that. At least he will have my notebooks.
But no one says we can’t change the way things are done.
Write a letter. Keep it when you get one. Save a box of memories so that future generations can look back and understand the lives of the those who have gone before them. My great-grandfather died before I was born. I’ve heard stories of him all my life, but he’s never before been as real to me as he was this afternoon when I held that letter in my hands.
Let’s not miss out on our memories.