I walked passed a bag of papers on the way to the recycling place the other day and noticed a cover to a nursery catalogue- my first nursery catalogue- partly sticking out of the rest of the papers there. It was part of a bunch of stuff Wendy was hauling out of what used to be my office. It was spring cleaning time, and in this zone it was a cleaning that was overdue for at least fifteen years. I had moved on to another room and left years of business stuff on shelves and in boxes and bags. It was of course stuff that I had not used or needed in all of that time, so theoretically there was no further real need for any of it to exist. Theory does not always work in practical terms- there is always the override of history that rears its head. It had always been my assumption that this stuff would just sit around and always be available for whatever reason that came along for it to be needed again. And then, all of a sudden, there was stuff in bags going away to a place from which there would be no return- a place with no ordered filing system or means of recall. I started digging through bags to see what really might be deemed worthy of a safe haven in a much reduced archive.
I had in some ways prepared myself for this. In fact, there was a time when I had returned from spending a month sorting through my parents’ things and lives with the resolve to not subject anyone after me to that same nightmare and, well, that project has yet to get off the ground. That was nearly three years ago. It should be stated here that for those who have been following this branch of the saga in these pages, a resolution to the family dilemma is still not yet fully at hand, although it is ever so slowly grinding to some form of settlement. That is of course no real excuse for my not acting on my purging resolve- I have other distractions and new and old projects to blame for that. In the sorting that I did in the house back east however I had the advantage of a degree of distance- I was looking for stuff that seemed of interest to me. A lot of that wound up in the dumper or on the auction block, since much of it really had no meaning to me. There was in this the chance of a missed Rosebud moment, for all those Citizen Kane fans in the audience. There was a grail of sorts that I did know of which in spite of my scouring efforts never did surface.
One thing that I had constantly asked my parents about when they were around was if they had any idea where my pennant collection had gone. I do not really look for these anymore and in truth I haven’t seen any around, or at least noticed them. We do pay brief visits to tourist traps on some of our excursions which turn out to mostly be to swimming events for Wendy. While there are still a sizeable number of tacky postcards most anywhere one goes, there was a time when those elongated, triangular felt patches with printing on them were all the rage at any tourista emporium. As we made two very long three week camping trips when I was a kid in the mid sixties and a number of shorter ones, I always came home with armload of these flags of memorabilia. They came in all sizes and colors with anything from just a name of a place to multicolored, postcard like renditions of the sites, rides or attractions of the places they represented. One that sticks in my mind was actually made of leather and had a postcard of the place in a cutout window at the wide end of the pennant. Another was a giant one of the Mackinac Bridge. When I got them home they all were thumbtacked to the trim around the edge of the ceiling in my room. I’m kind of remembering that my room was about fifteen by fifteen feet, and the collection nearly ran the whole distance of three of the four walls. I also recall taking all of them down and putting them in a labeled box just before leaving for college, as the family was moving the week after I left for my freshman year. There were two moves my parents made after that and I never found them again.
The real gold that I had been looking for in this last grand sorting before my parents’ house was sold was a metal box containing Kodachrome slides that my father had taken on a trip across country in the late 1940’s. I vaguely remember that he had shown them to us at least once, and I kind of remember that he had reached Los Angeles around the time of the Rose Bowl parade. In truth, I have no idea if those slides had survived the trips to this final home in New Hampshire. And I should say that my memories of these slides were probably edging past the fifty year mark, so who is to say whether their existence would really bear out their importance in my mythology of ancient family lore. As it was, I did find a stash of my dad’s father’s papers that he had written about our family history. There is an amazing, ornamentally calligraphed book honoring my Grandfather’s retirement from the Bowery Savings Bank, something that goes way beyond a gold watch or the golden parachute that didn’t exist back then, at least not for him. There were also a number of photo albums with pictures dating back to the 1890’s, although I have no idea who many of those pictured are or where most of the shots were taken. As I believe I have said in the past, I sometimes wonder what someone looking at some of my photographs might think at some time on into the future, if anyone might care. We do of course now have metadata that is a part of the information when a digital image is made. But digital data is way more transient than glass or even celluloid negatives, of which I have a boatload as well from earlier times. One just will never know who will be there to see them and which of them will simply be erased.