Well, I did it. Promising myself the time to clean out my stuff, I began the daunting task of letting go. It started with the cards and letters from the late 1980s to the present. Tied together with red and white striped kitchen twine each year was stored in a box or the old suitcase in the basement.
Now, the suitcase itself has a story. It was part of a three-piece luggage set given to me by my boss, LaVonne. I worked at the Gackle Café in high school for .75 an hour. I remember a hamburger steak dinner with a bun, coffee, potato and salad, maybe even dessert for $1.25. Wow.
I'm still determining where the other two pieces are, but the one manageably-sized blue Samsonite suitcase survived one of my many purges over the years.
Now, on the advice of several people, I decided I could toss those bundled years of memories into the fire pit and watch them disappear. But I couldn't. I sat on the edge of one of the storage boxes and went through them. Not each envelope or card, but the ones that spoke to me. As I went along, I tore off the stamps because my friend Cynthia donates them to some charity. I wasn't going to do that either, but I caved.
Many of the cards from years past had handwritten notes or even letters. Some of the cards were handmade by my sister-in-law. Some messages were from my children and were so clever and creative I had to save a few for savoring later – then trying to throw them.
As I sorted through the cards, I found thank-you notes from church, school and other volunteer activities. I found letters and a few notes from people. I don't even recall their names or how I knew them. Somehow it was not as painful as I thought.
All I can say is things have changed. Today's Christmas cards have form letters or not letters, and people don't even use their signatures – just a nice scripty font to indicate who the card is from. The labels on the envelopes are also printed and not handwritten. That made me sad.
There were also photos in those bundles that I decided to save and put with the other images in another storage bin. Someday my children will be sorting through those prints and dropping them into the waste basket because they don't know the people or the places they are viewing.
It's taken me two days, and I'm still in the second box. The greatest of treasures found yesterday was a handpainted card. We are talking about 25 years of paper, friends, faces and love.
It was a birthday card from my Aunt Alice. It was beautiful, with a watermelon rose and a bud on the inside. The handwriting was legible and neat. I'm so glad I took the time to review those cards.
I also found notes from my mom written in her familiar script with misspelled words. I loved that about her letters. She took the initiative to finish high school in her later years but never used a dictionary. One of my favorites was "Tell the Kits hi from me."
In the end, I am still trying to figure out why I saved all these cards, except I love paper and pretty art and handwritten notes. I will keep a couple of the enormous cards for Putz Houses. I'm banking on some time to play around this winter. The garden is nearly at rest, the garlic is planted, and I'm going to tough out the cold and do two more farmer's markets. Then it's off to Christmas goodie time.
It's also time to think about what kind of Christmas card to create for my giving. I am not expecting handwritten Christmas cards this year, and I am not sure there will be notes in any of yours; however – I will sign my name, as I always do, and pray that my scrawling is still legible.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.