Let me be clear – I am NOT a hoarder! But I do keep a lot of ‘stuff’ for sentimental reasons which is probably what a lot of us do when we’re single and by “a lot of us”, I am generally talking about women. “I’m always going to keep this coaster/postcard/pressed flower.”, said no man ever. Movie tickets, concert tickets, love letters, scraps of paper, programmes – I’ve kept versions of them all. When you are young and life is being lived at full speed, every experience becomes a memory to be collected….to be then shoved away in boxes or drawers that are ultimately found by our children after we die, cleaning out our houses and muttering, “What is all this crap?”
Well my dear son, this ‘crap’ is evidence of a rather fabulously spent youth. I recently found a paper bag full of concert and theatre ticket stubs, some faded and almost illegible but it was quite a stash. Let’s not dwell on the fact I couldn’t remember half of them but that’s not the point is it? The point is, I went to them all, undoubtedly having a blast at some and probably hating others. They represented time shared with friends, dinners, drinks, dancing, suppers…and all the things I now loathe – loud music, crowds and not enough sleep! God I had a good time. As a measure of how change comes to us all, I recently took my husband to a concert where the support act was not only deafening, their bass notes reverberated through the seats to such a degree I thought my spine was going to shatter. We ended up waiting outside until they mercifully stopped playing!
At the risk of blowing my own horn, I was rather popular in my younger years and had the cards, flowers and gifts to prove it. One of my admirers wrote an essay about me in Year 12, another a song. Who would be mad enough to just toss these wonderful works of passion aside? Well certainly not me. I have them in an album with assorted and sundry notes, birthday cards and Lord knows what else because I haven’t looked at it in centuries – but I know it’s there. I’m not actually sure where ‘there’ is but I know I still have it because it would NEVER have crossed my mind to get rid of it no matter how many clean-outs I would have had. In fact, it came with me to America, where I lived for 8 years and then returned with me, I’m fairly certain, in one of the boxes that had remained unopened all that time. If I told my husband I have kept all the cards he gave me while we were courting, his first reaction would be, “You’re kidding – what for?”. What for, indeed. Because they are hard copies of that first flush of love, of secrets shared, of the growing certainty that this relationship was heading down a path not before travelled. They are time capsules made out of paper and ink.
My first serious boyfriend (at age 18) gave me a small bundle as I was about to board a plane to join my parents on holiday in Italy. There were six small, exquisite cards – one for each month we had been together and each with a simple, sweet message. Even after 38 years, my heart constricts just a little when I think of them. Grand gestures have their place but it is the small, unexpected intimacies that follow us from our past to our future.
And yet I find that collecting keepsakes, like many things in life, becomes somewhat of a paradox because we think all these mementos will keep the memories alive when, more often than not, they remind us of just how much we have forgotten.