My older daughter tells me she thinks I'm a hoarder. This is coming from a child who for several years when she was in college could pack everything she owned in her car, and did, so I take her accusation with a grain of salt. She once, shortly after starting college, showed up at the farm with boxes and boxes of "stuff" and asked me if I could burn it for her. Inside were lots of papers that she understandably didn't want to end up in a landfill somewhere, but also her high school track medals and high school diploma and other such mementos. I asked if she was sure, that maybe someday her children or grandchildren might be interested to come across these items, but she was adamant.
Fast forward several years, when she then had a child or two of her own. I was going through my filing cabinet and came across a folder of her art work and school papers from grade school. I had offered these (to me) treasures to her a few years earlier, and at that time she was aghast that I had saved them in the first place, and certainly didn't want them then. Lo and behold, now that she had her own babies she said she understood why I had kept them... the first time your child traces their name that you had outlined with dots, the kindergarden and first grade construction paper creations they lovingly carried home, the little "I love you Mommy" notes they left, the birthday and Mother's Day cards they gave you...
Yes, I admit I do have some hoarding tendencies, maybe because for a good portion of my adult life I have lived at zero money and we couldn't afford to just go out and buy new "stuff" all the time so we made do with what we had. Maybe because my favorite aunt had a saying: Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without, and that struck a chord in me as a child. Maybe because I'm just frugal, or tight, so tight I sometimes squeak. (although I can also spend money like a drunken sailor at times lol) If you replace the expensive submersible well pump, you better save the old one, because someday you may be able to use parts from it to repair the "new" pump that has failed. Don't throw out those jeans or Tshirts just because they have a stain (or ten), or a hole (where the leg used to be), they're still good for work clothes. The handle broke off your favorite pan? No worry, you can use it as a dog food dish. Maybe it's part of my hippie back-to-the-land reduce-reuse-recycle attitude. Whatever you do, clean your plate and don't waste food! Just because you see an ad for it on television or in a magazine doesn't mean you will be less of a person if you don't go out and mortgage your soul to buy one.
This attitude towards consumerism in general has been pretty good to me overall, except now when I'm getting ready to move, and I have all this "stuff" scattered about in more than one location across the country. Part of me even regrets parting with some of the things I gave away last summer when I was up north, items that may have been good to have in the future. Part of me is struggling with getting rid of stuff now so I don't have to put it in storage or haul it north with me because I may have need of it in the future. Yeah, some is easy to part with. Some other stuff, not quite so easy. And some I am totally unwilling to part with.
Last fall at my uncle's house on his 85th birthday, when we were talking about my brother giving me the family land in SD, my cousin said I was the family historian. True enough I guess, I've often thought of myself as the family's Keeper of Memories. I remember sooo many things from when I was a child, details of houses and their contents, details of family gatherings, etc., and I've done a lot of geneological research on the family. I also have several large totes full of items from 100+ years ago, photos of my grandfather and his sisters when they were young, his report cards from high school and college, my great-aunt's and my great-grandmother's eyeglasses, photos of my favorite aunt when she was a girl and when she was homesteading in Indian Territory in South Dakota along with an incredible several hour long audio recording of her reminiscing about life and homesteading on the prairie in the late 1800's, some neckties and collars and cuffs with a handwritten note from my great-grandmother to my grandmother saying "These were your Father's just as he wore them to the bank" (He owned the bank in Alpena, South Dakota until it went under in the Depression).
When my cousin said I was the family historian, I pointedly looked at the nieces and nephew present and said "Hopefully one of you, or one of your children, or one of my grandchildren, is interested in the old family history, so I have someone to pass it on to." My younger cousin (I only have 2 first cousins) is the only person in
the immediate family to have a son who will carry on the family name. And none of the the younger generation has any direct memory of the people that meant so much to me and are gone now.
Sometimes I find it depressing to think about. In 100 years, very few people will remember me or who I was, and in 500 years it will be as if I never existed, so why does it seem so important to me that this oral history and these few tangible items are remembered and kept? That the land is kept in the family? That someone in the future holds on to these small mementos and trinkets from another person's life?