I have a box in my basement marked “Ann’s keepsakes,” filled with things that are special to me. Anyone else would probably consider it a box full of worthless odds and ends, and wonder why in the world I’m saving it. The battered stuffed pony, the cheap ring with an artificial emerald, the red dog collar, the purple lace ribbon and all the rest of the contents have no real value at all. But to me, every single item in that box is special.
The stuffed pony was my favorite childhood toy and almost constant companion…it’s no wonder he looks so well-worn. The “emerald” ring was a graduation gift from my grandmother, passed on to me because we both had May birthdays. The dog collar belonged to Genny, the first dog who was my very own and not a family pet. And the ribbon was a gift from a good friend’s mother, who made it to cheer me up after I came in last place in my heat during a Junior High track meet. (Lots of people have ribbons for winning races, but I bet I’m the only one who has a last place ribbon.)
I think it’s normal to hang onto to the things we treasure and to the people we love. We want to keep what, and who, we value in our lives. But the problem is that there is so much that we can’t hang on to, no matter how hard we try.
One of my very first “blogging friends” was a woman from Australia, who wrote a great blog about the trials and joys of farming there. She read every one of my posts and never failed to leave an encouraging comment. But one day she blogged about an upcoming surgery, and that was the last I ever heard of her. I still have no idea if she simply dropped out of the blogging world, or if the surgery went horribly wrong. And I doubt very much that I will ever know.
Life is full of losses, both large and small. Favorite restaurants close, neighborhood friends move away, treasured family traditions come to an end. And if you’re like me, you sometimes try a bit too hard to hang on to what is slipping away or even already gone. It’s hard to lose the things and people we value, but sometimes don’t have much choice.
And so I keep my little box of keepsakes, stored away on my basement shelf. I don’t get it out very often, as most days I’m too busy dealing with the stuff that is happening in my life right here and now. But every once in a while I add something to it, when I find myself facing yet another loss and want to save a little something to remind myself of a gift I once had.
In a way, I suppose, that’s the real purpose of my keepsakes. They represent the good memories that are mine forever, even when the actual people and things are gone. The influence of the past has helped shape who I am now, which means that those memories are a very real part of me and always will be. And knowing that makes it just a little bit easier when the time comes to “let go.”