some words are to someone else

Yesterday, a box of boxes arrived. The intent behind the initial order involved the future organization of the pile of correspondence on the corner table in the office. I have carried this haphazard record of my continuing existence with me to Texas, Ohio and then back to my home state of Michigan. For one reason or another, I was unable to part with any part of this assortment of handwritten letters, old birthday cards and printed emails from an old Hotmail account.

However, when faced with the simple task of putting all into a couple of boxes and then onto a high shelf, I hesitated. Some kind of grouping (family, friends, etc.) or order (chronological, thematic) would be easy to enact, but I began to wonder why I should even bother keeping the pile somehow intact.

The memories tucked away in some greeting cards and letters are not ones I prefer to possess. Some of the authors of those words to me are no longer in my life and I have no desire or idea where to find them. Reading over their words then makes me see how different I am now. The person to whom such letters are addressed no longer exists. The words within feel alien, as if I stumbled upon someone else's secret stash. Keeping such communications just doesn't feel right anymore.

This is not true of my thoughts on everything in the pile, though. The card from my mother with a Far Side cartoon on the cover and a clipping of her mother's obituary inside will be kept. An envelope from an old college buddy featuring a hand-drawn Spider Jerusalem will never be discarded. The same goes for the Christmas card from my beloved brother that concludes, "Mom wouldn't stop nagging at me until I sent this card."

I keep them because the images and words associated with those individuals still matter to me. This is not to say that others are not worth remembering, only that I might prefer a different kind of recollection for different kinds of memories. Still, I may not throw away the other cards and letters. The day before was the first time in two years that I perused the contents of the pile. The next time might be even longer. Will even less of others' words matter to me then?