I last posted on May 2, almost a month ago. What has been so important that I could sacrifice reflection and writing? During that time, I have been targeting one corner of the house for sorting and cleaning. I apply this vendetta with a satisfaction even more merciless in the reprieve its victims have been granted over the years. The day of reckoning has, however, arrived.
Mess will be involved. Garbage bags of it. And shredding. And decisions, for sure, as I pick through the detritus of my childhood and my teaching career with the same dread I untangled the plants from the weeds of the neglected gardens of my young adulthood. No matter, it has to be done. I prep the downstairs living area as I imagine a chef would a professional kitchen, or medical professionals an operating room. Shoeboxes, the physical mnemonics of my goal, collect by the wall to collect mementoes. Strewn next to them, garbage bags, a lowball estimate, I suspect. By the footstool, next to the plug-in, the shredder, ready for the marathon. Last, ranked by importance, three remotes: Signal box and TV power, TV functions, and DVD. Their mission: to entice me to the depths below and to save my sanity while I’m there.
I retrieve my childhood from the boxes spread like lego blocks over the downstairs kitchen floor. It has lodged between the repository of French teaching materials of my forties and classroom memorabilia of my fifties. A death-row of obsolete teaching material and stuff whose stay of execution has run out. As I sort, I find
· the oriental-themed black jewllery box, royal blue, pink, green and opal on ebony, a gift from my godmother when I was ten. A keeper—for the joy of someone knowing that I would need to feel grown-up.
· a square headscarf from Canada’s centennial year, folded and stored in a plastic bag. Another keeper—some value, maybe?
· my Grade 3 class photo—timid unsmiling me, prim and stoic at the end of the front row, neat in one of my mother’s flawless creations. My children might want to see that.
· a collection of holy cards with images of saints on the front and prayers on the back. Shred, all except one signed by Aunt Gert, whom I never met, who sang at my parents' wedding and died young. The boxes are filling more quickly than the garbage bags at this point.
· cards with signatures of my maternal and paternal grandparents, signed Grandpère et Grandmère but alive in my memory by their aliases, Memère et Pepère. How can I shred those today?
· a certificate of appreciation from local Chamber of Commerce in recognition of musical service to the parish. Shredded without pause.
· tiny plastic religious statues offered as rewards in school—garbage. I’m sorry. Mea culpa.
· my high school report cards—keep, maybe the kids might enjoy them, and then they can shred them.
· letters—mine to my parents, and my sister’s and roommates’ to me. Shredded without rereading. The past is the past, gone, and I have no desire to relive it.
· the valedictory address I wrote for my high school graduation, an outgrowth to my idealism and my hopes for the future, which a local businessman liked so much, he had hundreds of copies printed and distributed. I keep one of those, and the white satin pocket my mother made for my notecards.
· a poem my sister handwrote for me on rough paper. Keep and return. We have always been writers.
· Grade 2 penmanship notebook. Really? Shredded.
· The green-bound History of Willow Bunch 1870 – 1970, English version, that I helped translate one adolescent summer. My first published work. Keeper.
· my internship report, just for fun.
· letters notifying me of scholarship awards. Keeper: the satisfaction still wells up.
· Piano and theory examination results and certificates—I shred them all, those reminders of mediocrity.
The artifacts of my self that my mother’s careful and respectful management has preserved for decades have been dispatched. They await labelling and storage in this family room turned repository of memory, those relics of a valued past, filaments knotted into the threads of the current me.
That’s about as much time as I have for sentiment. There’s not even a dent in the garbage bags, and rows of boxes in the next room await their summoning.