My Memory Chest

I’m someone who has a hard time letting go. So I keep items that have value to nobody but me. These mementos reside in a cedar “memory chest” in my spare room upstairs. When I kick the bucket, one of my executors (Sue, Sharon or Pam) gets the thrill of going through my things and deciding what to toss. I’m betting it’s going to be a busy day for the garbage man.

cedar chest

Now don’t get me wrong; my friends can do whatever they’d like with my possessions. I won’t care if they dump sentimental items I can’t part with yet. After all, I’ll be dead, remember? But just for the fun of it, I’ll probably haunt whomever draws the short straw for that task.

Grandpa had the cedar chest carved in Thailand for Nana around 80 years ago, back when he was an importer/exporter traveling the world. I think of them whenever I open the chest and the essence of cedar escapes, filling the room with memories. That’s why I love the smell of cedar.

Nana & Grandpa

So when rain finally arrived this week, giving me an excuse to stay home, I went through the chest for the first time in years. I could easily spend a day reminiscing in there but I managed to keep it to a couple hours. After all, my to-do list awaits and one can’t dilly dally long or the list invariably grows.

I’ve kept a dairy, or journal, since age 10, up until 6 years ago when I started this blog (which now acts as my journal). Let’s just say anyone unfortunate enough to skim through those journals will no doubt be bored into a coma. That’s nearly 50 journals. Most reside in my memory chest but some are stuffed under a window seat in my bedroom.

my journals

My dog almost ate the top one

On January 6, 1989, I taped a note under the cover of the chest. Naturally, I’d totally forgotten what I wrote. After reading it, I was tempted to make some edits, as writers often do, but I refrained and started digging through the layers of memories. Lots of digging…

cedar chest inside 3

I have every letter Jim wrote me while in the army from 1975-79. I kept letters from past boyfriends and 40+ year old birthday cards from family and friends. There’s the ceramic heart my junior high boyfriend made me (before I actually broke his heart) and some funny but loving letters my dad wrote to my mom.

Jim's letters

What a trip looking through my old scrap book. Remember those? I saved ticket stubs from the first movie Jim and I went to in 1973 and old ski passes from Lake Tahoe. I even saved my Kodak Brownie camera. Then there’s my beloved teddy bear with one eye missing thanks to our dog, Charlie.

I saved thank you cards from my god-kids and touching condolences from friends when my parents died in 2004. I have my old driver’s licenses, passports and report cards buried in that chest; old magazines and newspapers with historic significance; a tiny slot machine bank from Nana and my dad’s bongo drums. The list goes on…

But here’s the thing; time slips by. The more life we live, the more we forget about the little things that contributed to the people we are today…things like ticket stubs and one-eyed teddy bears. I’m not ready to let that part of me go just yet, so I’m giving that task to others. After I’m gone, my mementos will be tossed in order to make room for someone else’s memories.

Just as it should be.

The best things in life

3 thoughts on “My Memory Chest

  1. Janet, I wouldn’t be able to part with those things either. They are all special to you in meaningful. I love that you have kept journals, as with my memory is fuzzy I know you have it all written down. I always love looking at that chest that your grandpa had made. And I’m glad you ended up with that.

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