Sentimentality is an individual preference. I have a friend who sees love embedded into each trinket ever given to her by anyone, no matter how junky, whereas I appreciate the thought but don’t feel compelled to keep things others give me. Things do not remind me of people. This mindset applied after my husband died leaving behind everything he had accumulated during his too short lifetime.
Does it matter what I saved or didn’t save from among the physical stuff that my dead husband once owned, held, used or wore? If the house were on fire would I run back to grab his favorite college sweatshirt or his wire rimmed prescription glasses before rushing toward the door? No I wouldn’t. The only thing worth the risk would be the photographs – the ones I’d carefully curated into albums, the edited highlights of our happiest memories condensed and captioned.
Among those would be the first picture taken of us as a couple in the Spring of 1983. We had just finished running a 10 kilometer race together, had only known each other a month. As we stood around after the race my sister said, “Let me get a picture!” then lined us up side by side near the finish line on the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. Just before she snapped the shot, Mark threw his arm around my shoulder and I remember feeling self conscious because I was sweaty after completing my first ever 10 K. At the time he was twenty-three, tall and athletic, halfway through medical school, with the prospect of an entire life before him. Who could envision then that he would get just twenty-four more years or what would transpire during them?
Yes I would try to save that photograph as well as so many others. Looking at our images frozen on film allows me to relive the memories of particular days of our life together. I do not get the same sense of connection with him from keeping his things. So I kept very little: his wedding ring, dress watch and gold tie bar in the shape of a scalpel, a few select items of clothing including his favorite, ubiquitous hat and his glasses. How about you? What did you keep and why?