Friday, July 23, 2010

war babies

My friend Jane's recent post on her blog Brigitte inspired me to think about what we save and what we toss.

I am still unpacking all of our stuff and finding myself in a similar quandary to Jane's cashmere sweater question. What to discard and what to save? Some things that I take out of our boxes seem fine—treasures I am glad I brought along with us—now I just need to find a place for them. Some, in the harsh light of day, seem too shabby or no longer have a use, at least not here. Why did I pack these? Oh right, at some point in my packing I reached the saturation point of making sorting and culling decisions and started to throw anything that wasn't nailed down into an empty box just to be done with it.  So, for these question-mark items I have built a pile for the Salvation Army. They will now make the decision of whether to keep or toss, without any of my emotional baggage.

As I look around for the proper place to put our stuff I'm also finding lots of things my mom has saved over the years—I come from a family where no one ever wanted to throw anything out. Everything is useful and interesting. This is a wonderful trait to inherit when it comes to old family photos and letters. Not as wonderful a personality quirk when it's cabinets full of old shopping bags. Or folders full of odd news clippings—all about art or travel or books—incredibly interesting—but beware if you start to sort through them, as you will get sucked in to reading fascinating decades-old torn-out articles from National Geographic or Smithsonian magazines, possibly for hours. But the question that keeps hovering is really, do we need to keep it all?  And if so, where?

Some would just label us as a family of pack-rats. They might be right. But I think this urge to keep things is also definitely influenced by my family's living through the "Great Wars." My grandmother was a young child in WW1, and raised her young child, my mom, during WW2. My mom told my brother and me stories when we were young of her helping in the war effort by collecting bits of tin foil and other items.

I would never want my daughter to have to live through a major war like my mother did as a child, but when I look at the drawers full of her plastic toys I wonder what it would be like to have only a handful of precious items rather than the modern abundance that surrounds us. But you can't live in or live like the past. My twenty-first century child needs to be a product of her own generation. I am going to try and continue to use this unpacking as an opportunity to review what we have and maybe reduce and recycle some un-needed items to folks who could use them. Call it nouveau-rationing.
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