Editing my life

These boxes have been sitting in my living room for at least four months. Today my task is to finish sifting through the contents and picking highlights to add to a scrapbook. They contain souvenirs, notes, mementos: train tickets, postcards, beer mats, photographs (not many), leaflets, race numbers, letters and so on. I don’t have room to store everything I collect, but I want to preserve some things.
This is a hard task. Not because I find throwing things away difficult. That’s not normally a problem. My test is, ‘if I was fleeing in the middle of the night, would I carry this?’ The idea behind the scrapbook is to have just the one thing to take should a midnight fleeing take place. I’m not planning it, by the way, but I did something fairly similar once, so it always seems possible I might have to do it again.
The difficulty is because I know I have no-one to hand this on to. When I’m old and losing my memory, who will be there to remind me of these times? There are no children to entertain with stories of things past. No extended family with an interest in others’ lives.
My own childhood memories are precariously held. My brother has received ECT treatment over a number of years and he no longer remembers simple things about our past together, so there’s no-one to reinforce what I remember.
Thinking about this – and I know it veers into self-pity – is something that makes me feel lonely. However, the boxes won’t go away by themselves, and it’s not something I can outsource to someone else. So, onwards and upwards: tea in pot, pritt stick in hand, R4 playing – time to get on with it.


  1. Ok, I read it, maybe I shouldn’t have read it – just another reminder how sick I get of living on my own and very unlikely to ever have children. Nevertheless, as always, thanks for sharing. Greetings from another self-pitying creature (particularly bad as I’m very tired…).

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I hope you feel pleased with the finished product! I have several boxes of similar stuff that I still haven’t dealt with, so I am going to use your story to inspire me to get moving with it!

  3. Scrapbooks are good, although sometimes sorting through the stuff, I do find myself feeling a bit melancholic. I have some from when I was a kid (obsessed with horses, the books now look odd to me – devoid as they are of any pictures of family or people I know!). I have one from my undergrad days. I have another, barely started, and a whole crate worth of stuff I need to cut and paste into it. I think you’ve inspired me to finally get on with it.

    Like you, I don’t have anyone to give them to… YET. I remain optimistic that will change. Life’s been pretty surprising so far, I see no reason for it to stop surprising me now! But if it doesn’t, no matter. I’ll leave the best of them to the Bodleian. When I was a trainee there – I was shown a selection of lovely journals from 1918. They were heartbreaking records lovingly compiled by mothers of boys who went off to war, and never returned. Records of an age which seems incredibly long ago. I suspect our age, the age of digital everything, will make the ephemeral stuff even more important to future generations.

  4. Jo – those journals do sound heartbreaking. I hope you can get on with it soon. Sigrun – tired is fine. I think a bit of self-pity, if kept under control, is a good thing as it keeps us in touch with how we feel about things, and I am terrible at ignoring that.
    Laura – pleased to be an inspiration to someone!

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