Letter to a Friend:

I hope this package is a pleasant surprise rather than a rude shock, but my husband is finally seriously dealing with his 45+ years of accumulated papers in our basement. This has been painful in the extreme. I’m not speaking jokingly or metaphorically when I say I’ve worried at times that he would have a nervous breakdown. We’ve hired someone to help sort—gave her a list of okay to toss without approval. But even so, there have been days when he seems barely capable of speech. But progress is being made, and it turns out that of the 200 (again, no exaggeration) boxes down there, one large plastic bin belonged to me.

I could hardly refuse to deal with it.

There was a lot that was easy to toss—old receipts, etc. Much that was delightful—papers from my favorite college & grad school courses, with many positive comments from professors. But pain in that too, of course—why haven’t I achieved more with all that potential? A wonderful birthday card from our old office! (apparently I requested no cake—no doubt trying as always to lose weight). Most of the names are lost to time, but  some of them made delightful funny comments. Fun to read but then it was tossed. And letters from old friends. What a lot of time we must have spent writing and reading letters in our 20s and 30s! And sadness in that too, as some of those people I’ve lost touch with. Especially painful when I can see that that happened as a result of stubbornness or simply letting things slide. Some of those had to go as well, but letters from people such as yourself, with whom I’m still in touch, I’m returning. They are like journal entries, many of them. You of course can do what you like with them, but I hope they’ll bring you some moments of pleasure, sweet or bittersweet.

But in some ways we are lucky.  What to do with old wedding albums, photos from a first marriage gone bad? Especially as the photos were matted and mounted. It seemed like a very expensive presentation, and one that must have cost my parents a pretty penny. I was oblivious to the money they spent on that nice wedding, but I had no desire to keep photos of my former husband, but photos of my parents, my sisters, my friends from so long ago, all dressed up and having a good time, of course I wanted to keep them.
This is why scanners were invented, dear. There was no way to separate the photos from their mountings without ripping them (and possibly ending up with photos I did not want on the other side of the mounting). But scanning took care of the problem. I have digital copies of the people I want to keep. The others–into the trash.