What To Do with The Cards?

My younger sister was the executor of our mother’s estate, and as such W. inherited all the random stuff not covered under our mother’s will. W. is cleaning out — beginning that process in her mid-60’s — and she just sent me a bag of all the cards we three girls ever sent our mother, plus the letters I wrote home from the Peace Corps. Margaret saved everything and lugged it from place to place through all of her many moves. I never did tally up how many places she lived, but when I applied to the Peace Corps as a 21 year old college senior in 1967 I had to list all my past addresses, and there were eighteen. I had to attach an additional sheet to the application.

I carefully guard and cherish emotional experiences, not so much things. W. said I’m free to throw all this stuff out, just that she didn’t want to do it.

The memories I saved from the Panama experience are in my memoir; I was more interested in what lingered for me after all those years than in whatever day-to-day content might be in the letters. Actually, I didn’t know they still existed. I assumed that at some point, Margaret would have thrown them out. I did know she had them; many years ago she told me archly she wasn’t giving them to me because she knew I’d toss them. She was probably right.

The cards and legal file folders full of air mail letters fill about half a shopping bag, and I don’t know what to do with them but I haven’t thrown them out. Despite my vow not to accumulate any new stuff, and despite my very limited closet space in my open loft, I stuck the whole thing in the back of my one long closet. There they will sit for some while, I expect, until clarity about what to do with them emerges.

4 thoughts on “What To Do with The Cards?

  1. I get asked about my experience at the Academy fairly often, and the truth is memory and experience are not the same thing. In cleaning out mom’s attic, I found a stash of the letters I wrote from those years and it is clear that memory has softened the edges of what I remember. I seem to have lost those letters again, so the answer I give to those inquiring about my time at the academy is far more nostalgic than perhaps the inquirer deserves.

    Why not scan the letters so you can keep the record and lose the clutter? E

    Ellen Coyne


  2. I immediately had the same thought or recommendation that you should scan them and create electronic copies, that way you can save them but not save the clutter it allows for both needs to be served well.

  3. For Ellen: Memory and experience as documented by letters written at the time are not the same thing. Memory is constructed, not literal. Interesting that you found, and then lost, your own Naval Academy letters. If I scan these, I first have to answer the question of who I’m preserving them for? Will broach the question with Sara and Matt.

  4. for Bryna: At the very least, I’m not going to do anything with the letters right away. I do think the bag of old cards goes, though. šŸ™‚

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