When preparing to move, rooting through boxes of crap is inevitable. You find things like your high school yearbooks, which you haven’t looked at in years because you’re friends with most of those people on Facebook anyway. You find your collection of New Kids on the Block memorabilia from when you were just a kid, and your husband urges you to throw it all away, only to receive a heated glare because your Joe McIntyre doll isn’t going anywhere. You find a box of your childhood toys, including your beloved-but-now-ratty ALF doll. You find things that make your heart bleed and your eyes leak, including the trash bag still containing the bed that belonged to the dog you had to put to sleep two years before. You know it’s silly to keep, and even sillier to pack into a moving truck and send all the way to Washington state, but the thought of parting with that old, worn out bed that’s still covered in his fur just gouges at your heart out and makes you feel like you’re losing him all over again.
Moving is hard. I’ve moved a fare share so I’ve done a good job of throwing away old stuff, but there’s still a lot to go through. We’ve lived in Indianapolis for six years and, in that time, we’ve collected new junk. Furniture. Antiques (a lot of those). Dishes. Old cell phones. There’s so much stuff that I don’t need but that I’m not sure I can part with.
Over the weekend, I found an old photo album that sent me reeling back in time. The photos were from the late 90s/early 00s and included some memories from when I went to culinary school. There were plenty of pictures of my first trip to New York City. There were some mildly risque pictures of a man I once thought I was in love with, but my much older self can now look at those pictures and recall those memories and it’s easy to figure out that he really was just a pretty face.
Tucked into the back of that album was a card. The second I saw it, my eyes went wide. I studied the handwriting – blocky, chunky, like that of an engineer. When I opened it up, I smiled. I remember the day I got that card. My first love, the first man I gave myself to, was much older than me and we met online. We talked on the phone constantly after meeting in a chat room (no dating sites back then!) and I eventually flew to NYC to meet him. But that card – oh, that card. The words were so sweet, even years later, and I could practically see my 19-year-old self grinning wide as I read it. Though just a few lines, he references things we’d shared that I hadn’t thought about in very long time.
For years, my memories of him were surrounded by a blanket of pain. Things ended as they often do when there’s a 16-year age difference, and my 20-year-old heart couldn’t take it. Losing him was why I adopted the dog that I had to put to sleep two years ago. Losing him created a ripple effect in my life, the rings going outward for years. We spoke after September 11th because I’d reached out to him out of worry, since he lived and worked in NYC. He reached out to me after his sweet dog died because he thought I’d like to know that she was buried under her favorite tree. Over the years, the chokehold of grief loosened and as a woman in her mid-thirties, I can look back on that relationship now with nothing but thanks and a smile. I’d made a good choice in making him my first real love.
The card, though, isn’t coming with me. I scanned it and stored it on an external hard drive, but there’s no need for it to end up in Seattle. Come Saturday, it will be burned with all my college papers, old journals, and everything else I’ve spent this week scanning. I was a 19-year-old girl when I got that card. My 35-year-old self doesn’t need it anymore.
The thing about moving is that, each time you do it, it gives you a chance to glide down memory lane, and once you’re there, you get to select what still really matters and pack that stuff with you. As we age, the baggage we find valuable changes and the rest of it, those old letters and cards and even yearbooks from 20 years ago, get left behind.