Until about 2:30 a.m., I rooted through boxes in the basement, sorting greeting cards, CDs, graduate school paperwork and baby clothes, searching for windows. After a week of Forest doing the same, I figured I could zero in on the Microsoft Windows disk, which we need to repair the dormant (easy to fix…..if you have the windows disk) computer Daniel built when he started college.
Of course I didn’t find windows (although I did find the booklet it came in). Instead, I found myself looking through the windows of the last 25 years or so, trying to evaluate what was worth keeping, what I could release into the grand universe of recycled paper.
Going: piles of syllabi from all the classes I taught at KU for 10 years, non-sentimental stuffed animals, four broken printers we found on the street and never fixed, and a whole lot of utility bills. Staying: t-shirts I have loved, frilly things Natalie wore, all the essays I wrote in grad school (can’t believe I wrote a long paper on Melville’s Pierre, an obscure book long forgotten), boxes of photos I will probably never sort through, and books and intriguing toys for the grandchildren I hope will one day arrive and propel me down to the basement to find this stuff.
It’s an interesting thing to look into our stuff, and from it, try to figure out something about the past and the future. What matters? Who, including and especially my children and me, might benefit from keeping it? Will I ever access whatever is valuable whenever it’s needed? I think of what a friend told me how, when cleaning out her mom’s apartment, so much stuff just went to Goodwill, the trash and recycling. In the end, the little slips of paper with hopeful news, the dress worn for a special occasion and the Pith helmut dissolve from one life into another.
I just hope, despite not finding the windows disk, I can remember to look through the windows to what I’ve lived, and do something of use with all the tokens, talismans and memories stuffed into boxes and plastic tubs in the basement.
Pictures: the windows of the present that I look through most