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.