Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Am I Erasing Memories?

How do we draw the line between straightforward downsizing and memory erasure?

If moving into a smaller space were simply all about shedding the detritus that we no longer want, use, or realistically require, it would be really easy. I would simply call 1-800-Junk and dispose of everything except the bed, a TV (Hello, Murdoch Mysteries!), a couple of place settings, and toilet paper. (I tend to splurge in this area.)

But reality's a bitch, right?

I wrote the other day about the "rules" we have adopted and attempted to adhere to during this time of upheaval. But I have also become acutely aware of the passionate sentimentality associated with each and every item we are sifting through. Everything from old toys to broken picture frames seems to have a memory attached to it. I must admit that I wasn't fully prepared for the tsunami of emotion that has flattened me as we purge and pack. The Husband has taken to gently mocking me for assigning double the amount of time to every task because I have either had to take photographs of things or write full-throated blog defenses in favour of keeping them.

I know that I can't possibly keep it all and we have already divested ourselves of huge swaths of possessions in order to start afresh. But every so often I am struck by yet another wave of angst that suggests that perhaps I am not paying proper respect to the past and the memories of those whom I cherished.

Yesterday I came across this.

This old-style tin coin bank was given to me by my grandfather. He passed away when I was only three and half years old and my memories of him are reduced to a few old pictures and stories from my mom. I have nothing that belonged to him. He was a man of simple means and there were a lot of us grandchildren, so gifts were rarely extravagant. This child's toy is the only gift that I own that he gave exclusively to me. My mother can't recall if it was a birthday or Chanukah present, but for years she wouldn't allow me to part with it. When my parents downsized from their house to a condo, I took it and it has been in my basement ever since.

Will I display it? Probably not.

Do I have a use for it? Absolutely not

Will I sell it? Positively not.

Will I donate it? Well...therein lies the conundrum.

To the untrained eye, this is junk. It belongs in a garage sale. To me, it is the only tangible connection  to a long-lost member of my family. To me, parting with this item is like erasing his memory, my only memory of him.

This moving exercise has opened up a lifetime of emotional responses. I am living in daily conflict between brutal reality and sepia-coloured reminiscence. And...it isn't at all fun.


  1. First off - there is a collectors market for this sort of item and it has real monetary value. However - and more importantly - it is a keepsake that cannot ever be replaced and it's value is infinite. Re-purpose it in your new home. How about making it into a depository for your change. When it is full use the money for gifts for your children (or maybe one day grandchildren), thus caring on the family tradition of gift giving to another generation.

    I have my grandmothers Shabbat candle sticks, and with them comes the fond memories of childhood Shabbat dinner at her apartment. I have always said that should I be forced to pick a single item to take with me - it would be those because they are irreplaceable.

    1. Thank you! I do know that this particular item is a keeper. There can't be a monetary value that would eclipse the emotional attachment. I am struggling with how much of our stuff seems to carry this weight. We are slowly but surely finding our way through it. Your opinion is wise and accepted with gratitude.