The Things You Hold Onto

The closet was big but not well-ventilated. My sleeveless shirt clung to my skin. I couldn’t bring myself, however, to step out into the air-conditioned bedroom just yet.

Fifteen minutes earlier, I had opened the closet door with the intention of cleaning out this storage space. This closet contained a “neat mess,” as oxymoronic as that sounds. It was stuffed with boxes stacked atop one another, and odds and ends packed in here and there (a dented lampshade, kids’ art supplies, Christmas decorations).

I had intended to declutter this mess. I brought up three trash bags, just like professional organizers say to do—one for things to keep, one for things to donate and the other for the landfill. I was even filling up the bags at a fairly steady pace.

Every now and then, though, something from one of the boxes would catch my eye—stop me mid-declutter—and take me back.

This picture frame, for example, with this picture in it.

Evanses

That’s 18-year-old me with my two favorite neighbors of all time, Mr. and Mrs. Evans, on their front porch. I grew up next door to them in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I’m not sure who took this picture, but I took it with me to Richmond, Va., when I went to college there. I remember having it on the bookshelf in my freshman dorm room.

I remember Mr. and Mrs. Evans too, both deceased now. They always made time to talk with my siblings and me. They always bought whatever we were selling for our school fundraisers. They came to my wedding, and the videographer captured a moment of them dancing happily together. For all of these reasons—for the people they were—I hold onto this picture.

Another eye-catching find, a memory trigger: This antique decanter.

Decanter

Richmond, the summer of 2008. Probably as hot as it is now. Stanton and I stopped by an estate sale with some college friends. (We had been married a few months.) I want to say Jackie and Kevin were with us, but I’m not positive.

We were sitting outside under an expansive white tent, taking in the auction at the front, when all of a sudden Stanton gestured, and then even more suddenly he was the owner of this decanter.

No more estate sales for us, friends. It was a funny moment, though, a fun afternoon with friends, a memento worth taking with us from Richmond to San Antonio.

I read once that when people move from place to place and home to home, they often move the same boxes with them. And some of these boxes remain unopened through all the moves. But the folks to whom these boxes belong know the contents inside, and they know they matter.

They mean something.

They’re worth holding onto.

What are the things that you hold onto?

What are the mementos that you can’t let go of? What are the keepsakes that have outlasted your decluttering attempts and relocations?

And…why?

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

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What Are Your Family Traditions?

8_What Are Your Family TraditionsAll the ladies in my family love Michael Strahan. Not for his football prowess, of course, but for his friendly, easy-on-the-eyes morning-talk-show presence. And I especially love this quote he once shared: “I have the best memories as a kid eating ice cream. It was a family tradition that I had with my father. It was nice.”

Many family traditions involve food, it seems. I myself remember, as a child, stopping by a local ice cream shop called Curly Creme with my mom, two brothers, and sister. Curly Creme specialized in soft ice cream, and operated during the summer only. Throughout my childhood, my summer vacations included weekly cones of chocolate-vanilla “twist” custard from this homegrown institution. I can almost—almost—still taste that rich two-in-one flavor.

Beyond encounters with ice cream ( 🙂 ), family traditions include customs both big and small, from multigenerational holiday getaways to Saturday-morning basketball games in the driveway.

These days, Little G and I have fallen into a cozy Sunday-afternoon mother-daughter tradition that I love, and that I hope Little G loves, too. After we get home from church and have lunch with my hubby, we give him some time to himself (yesterday he watched his beloved Texans play the Jaguars) while we head over to one of my favorite local coffee shops.

Our mother-daughter date includes hot chocolate for me and a chocolate-chip cookie for Little G. We make ourselves comfortable at a table for two, and I bring along a coloring book and crayons in case we feel creative. A lot of the time, though, we simply enjoy hanging out together—people watching, listening to the overhead music, and flipping through the various magazines on hand.

I stumbled across this article, “Creating a Positive Family Culture: The Importance of Establishing Family Traditions.” The article notes, “Traditions, when done right, lend a certain magic, spirit, and texture to our everyday lives.”

At first glance, there may not seem to be much magical about chocolate-chip cookies from a coffee shop. But maybe the magic lives in the experience—of carving out time together, of being in communion with each other. The article also notes that “through regular family dinners or activities, the centrality of familial solidarity is instilled.”

What do you think, friends? What are your family traditions? What makes them magical?