Ironically, there are benefits to moving so often as a military family. Every few years, we’re forced to go through all the used markers, pillowcases, snow boots, kitchen utensils, Barbies, tae kwan do trophies, tax records, and saucepans, and throw a bunch of stuff out.
As a person who attaches sentimental value to everything from seashells and matchbooks to stained bibs and hospital bracelets, this can be stressful. But the sands of time grind away my sentimentality, and eventually, I end up chucking out mementos that I formerly believed to be too precious to part with.
As we prepare for our next military move to Rhode Island, I’m reconsidering items I thought were useful or nostalgic enough to haul around for so many years. For example, Aunt Millie’s (may she rest in peace) old end tables, with the cigarette burns I thought I’d buff out one day, were relegated to the donate pile. Although I kept one file of my kids’ artwork, anything with cracked macaroni or yellowing glue was photographed and discarded. Similarly, clothing that has not been worn in the last five years – except for my college duck boots which I hear are coming back into style — has been delivered to Goodwill.
Some collections, however, get pared down with each tour, but are never completely discarded regardless of their current usefulness. For example, I’ve been adding to several tubs of old t-shirts for years, because someday, I WILL make each of my kids a t-shirt quilt before they go off to college. And, I have at least four boxes of old toys and books that WILL seed the fantastic playroom I envision for my future grandchildren. I WILL use that stuff someday, I swear.
And then there’s the stuff I recently whittled down to one bottom file drawer. It contains documents that not only took years of hard work to assemble, but cost me over $90,000 to acquire. When my husband and I first married in 1993, this collection was huge and took up at least a dozen boxes. But with every tour, the contents aged, became obsolete, and were thrown away.
Other than a few musty books which reside on our shelf just for show, the bottom file drawer now contains the only tangible evidence of my career as a litigation attorney.
The hanging folders in the bottom drawer have tabs inscribed with titles such as “Resumes,” “Transcripts,” “Licensing,” and “Writing Samples.” Even though none of these documents have been referenced since I quit working in the 1990s to raise our kids, I keep them all neatly filed in case I need them to land that six-figure partnership offer in a high-powered litigation firm one day.
Although I won’t readily admit it, I know down deep inside that these old documents, now yellowed and stained with spots of rust from ancient paper clips and staples, will never realistically serve to supplement any future application for my employment. But I can’t bring myself to throw them away, just in case.
Besides, the file drawers above contain my children’s birth certificates, report cards, physical forms, the deed to our first house, mortgage documents, college savings statements, the dog’s shot records, orthodontist’s bills, car insurance policies, passports, tax forms, orders and other essential documents memorializing 20 years of life as a military family.
Like my college duck boots, the tub of t-shirts, and those old toys, my legal career will stay packed away a while longer. I WILL get to them eventually. In the meantime, I’ve got other, more important things to do.
- The Stuff Families Are Made Of (www.themeatandpotatoesoflife.com)
- Buying Culture (www.themeatandpotatoesoflife.com)
- What’s that you say, Ms. Robinson? (www.themeatandpotatoesoflife.com)