memories are made of this

It’s packing Saturday at the Lancia-Ibanez household and today I decided to tackle the small collection of boxes under the bed. That’s where my old pictures, letters, cards, diplomas, and other memorabilia get stashed when I move from house to house.   I always move with them, and I rarely ever even look inside. This year, for this move, I decided I was going to go through every last shred of paper to weed things down to their essentials. No more useless memories. From four boxes, I am down to one, in a painstaking process that took all morning and most of the afternoon.  Sitting here after it’s all over makes me want to jot down some observations as I’m in a peculiarly reflective mood.

At some point, not too long ago, all the items in those boxes were too near to my heart to consider getting rid of. And while I feel the same way about some of the stuff, it’s strange now to feel so disconnected from most of it.  There are pictures of me all over the world – the obligatory pyramids in Egypt, the highlands of Ethiopia, the alps in Italy, shots from all around North America—that bring back fond memories of travels and adventures. Those I kept, as well as most of the family and close friends shots and all their letters.  All the thoughts the images conjure up are positive.  It’s bizarre because deep down I know it wasn’t always great. Rose-colored glasses, I guess.

Then there are the pictures I don’t care about at all– of friends I am fondly hugging but whose names I don’t even remember anymore, of landscapes I can’t identify, those botched shots with half a thumb obscuring the lens of an otherwise great shot. I threw those out without half a second chance.  Those terrify me because I know it wasn’t so long ago and it’s like amnesia almost.

I also got ride of duplicates, those five almost-identical shots of the same subjects, and embarrassing pictures kissing exes and generally looking unattractive, even in my youthful wrinkle-free era. Those remind me that memories fade, and life moves at a quick clip, and it’s a good thing some things changed.

In general, though, I am most struck by the fact that the stuff I carry, the pictures, the notes, letters, and awards, don’t really resonate with me anymore. I see myself in them, and smile as I think back, but if you replaced me with someone else I probably wouldn’t have remembered I was once there, too. It’s odd to think that enough time has passed that even pictures of me as a “grown up” seem distant enough to be able to be someone else, like baby pictures that you only know are you because your parents tell you so.

It’s also strange to think of creating this, my own self-selected set of memories. As an historian, as an archivist, I feel like I know a different side of the process, the one that comes from the subject.  It is a curious thought.  It’s also remarkable how little I have in terms of tangible memories since digital cameras and cell phones. As my SD card keeps deleting all me recent memories, and CDs get transferred until they’re obsolete, I wonder if I’ll be left with a giant void in my future memory boxes.  It leaves me feeling in a very delicate and vulnerable mood.

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