The adage of taking a trip down memory lane generally conjures up images of elderly people reminiscing over the good old days with family and friends. Or perhaps the over exuberant goings on of a high school reunion where glory days are relived but bedtimes are earlier.
My Dad’s currently sorting through a random collection of boxes that have been stored under his home for years waiting for a time when he could sort through them properly. Now he’s finally retired, he has time but what to keep and what to throw is proving difficult.
Yesterday he gifted me a tiny suitcase laden with letters, postcards, greeting cards and cardboard beer coasters (more on that later) from my childhood. My sons were highly amused to learn the tiny suitcase was in fact my younger sister’s first school bag. Times have changed.
So last night I entered the rabbit hole and trawled through the suitcase of treasures. Instantly I was transported to an era where little girls received birthday cards featuring smiling females ironing, baking, picking flowers in wide brimmed sunhats and making daisy chains.
There were cards from former classmates, hand written birthday party invitations, letters from pen pals and a tear inducing assortment of cards from both sets of grandparents. People could actually write then and apparently, were pretty awesome at word choice too. Cards from my grandparents were signed with fondest love and addressed to dear sweet Michelle. I imagine the sentiment was lost on me at the time but last night, I felt encased in a cloud of love and affection that I’ve subconsciously carried with me ever since.
Inside the cards I saw families expand. My godfather’s offerings were initially signed by him alone, then with his wife’s name and then, the addition of two sons of his own. My cousins grew in number and names were shortened over the years. My younger sister’s cards were signed Private Ben for a few years – a reference to the TV show at the time about a young female soldier she idolised.
I was reminded by the Smith Family (neighbours from up the road who drove me to the bus stop when I was 5 and 6) that I had mumps one my 7th birthday. The highlight that day was a phone call from my school teacher. I recall being oddly tongue tied at the thought of a teacher ringing me at home.
And the beer coasters? From when Nanny (my Mum’s Mum) travelled to England in 1982. We were in to collecting stuff (erasers, postcards, stickers) and she liked visiting pubs so stars aligned. My husband was impressed and has taken possession of them for his man cave.
Of course there were sad moments down Memory Lane too – names of family members and friends taken too soon. Some in accidents, others self-inflicted. Their names carefully etched in cards reminding me again of the need to make the most of every, single, day.
But there they all were, staring back at me in neat cursive handwriting, spidery scrawls or teenage code where love hearts replaced dots on the letter i. People I hadn’t thought about in decades almost forgotten. But not quite. A wave of memories came flooding back of classrooms and holidays of farm life and family gatherings. It was bitter sweet but mostly sweet.
So turns out tripping down memory lane isn’t just for old people or those experiencing a mid-life crisis. It’s for everyone. It’s the ties that bind us, the shared history, the moments in time and the people we made memories with.
Now I understand why it’s hard to sort the boxes out. It’s not about the boxes, or even what’s in them is it? It’s the memories attached that make “sorting stuff out” so difficult which I suppose is why Dad put it off for so long.
And now his dilemma is mine – what to keep and what to discard? This morning I’ve realised that it doesn’t actually matter if I throw most of the collection out. Last night’s detour brought me pleasure and moments like that can’t be discarded when we carry them in our hearts.