One thing I’ve learned about packing for a move—you’re unpacking as much as you’re packing.
This is especially true when you realize this is very probably the last time you’ll be doing this often onerous, but also adventurous undertaking. You just never know what’s going to surface. Searching through these various boxes is comparable to an archaeological dig. It brings up layers and layers of the past.
You open a box that’s been stacked in a closet, cabinet or back room for who knows how long, and can’t remember what’s in it. Usually the box, carton, etc. is marked with something euphemistic such as “Old Stuff” or “Odds and Ends”, if marked at all. It gives you no idea of what’s really inside.
So, you naturally have to open it as curiosity is stronger than common sense! BIG MISTAKE! It’s like opening Pandora’s Box—now all of the contents that have been contentedly sleeping for the past X number of years, are demanding to be seen, heard and remembered!
You spend the next hour or two delving into the box. Part of the time it’s “Now why in the world did I keep this broken vase, bowl, necklace, whatever?” and you throw it in the trash bag.
More often, however, you’re suddenly back to the distant time that the item represents. “Oh, I remember when Mama had this sitting on the dining room table as the centerpiece, or, depending on what the item is, wore it for every special occasion, or used it to always make her pie crusts in, etc. etc.”
The end result is that the item is, of course, set aside to be saved and packed away again. You’ve also spent an hour or two going through one box with only one or two unsalvageable or unrecognizable pieces tossed and everything else repacked and labeled “SAVE! FAMILY STUFF.”
Then there are the old pictures, albums, postcards and letters you unearth! That’s a real pitfall as you have to look at or read each one and finally move to a more comfortable place to sit as you revisit the past.
Soon you’re surrounded by and immersed in the people, voices, emotions, places and atmosphere echoing down through bygone years.
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In my own case, I’ve found not only my own past being recalled—that includes childhood, school, young adult and family pictures—but also those of relatives that I either never knew or barely recall. Still, they are a part of who I am today and I find them fascinating.
The vast changing of the world’s styles, customs, conventions, convictions, ethics and character over the past century or two become apparent. Especially over the last 100 years. I have pictures, albums souvenir booklets and postcards from the late 1800s through the 1990s. That’s quite a span and the face of the world and its residents has changed dramatically.
The recorded past stored in these neglected boxes cover one civil war, two major world wars and numerous so-called “Cold Wars.” I also have pictures and relics from some of those that have been accumulated by past family members.
I find myself particularly fascinated by the older photos and especially the souvenir books. One that surfaced I especially like is of the Pike’s Peak area in probably the late 1880s. I’ve been to that area within our “modern” times” and it is a bit difficult to visualize them as being the same place.
While the Peak itself remains timeless, steadfast and mostly unchanged, there have been many so-called improvements made on it and around it. Certainly, the changes in the appearance of the people from then and now are enormous! In the gathering of tourists shown in the old pictures you will not find a pair of flip-flops, short shorts or men whose pants barely cover those areas of anatomy that are best seen only by their wives or doctors, and displaying instead their jockeys or boxers.
True, the attire of that era looks stiff and decidedly uncomfortable; still it shows the adherence to respectability in all situations and places of that time. Something we could use a little more of in this “if you’ve got it flaunt it” day.
I have, therefore, found that as I am packing for my present move to another smaller residence, I have unpacked a lot of memories. I never know what I’m going to unearth or how it’s going to affect me.
Sometimes I find myself becoming nostalgic or sad as I realize, deep inside, that these faces and times are gone…and can never again be visited, hugged, enjoyed, apologized to, laughed or cried with, or learned from. It also brings strongly to mind my own mortality.
And that may be something we all need to be reminded of occasionally.