Holding on to mementos
In this digital age, there is something special about keeping handwritten momentos.
(Diane Cassells)
I did not always want to be a writer. Growing up, I went from daydreaming about becoming a princess, to pondering a career in a hair salon, to imagining myself as an architect. Sometime during high school though, my love for the written word announced its arrival, and cemented its presence through an essay I wrote. It was called “The Ear on my Knee” and, based on my then-English teacher’s response to the essay, I knew I either wanted to write, or go into comedy.

I wouldn’t remember a thing about this evolution towards writing, were it not for my mother and her meticulous memento-keeping. She had a book where she’d jot down our funny phrases as we grew up (for the record, my term for farting at the age of 3, was “Bum said pook”) and chronicle our life aspirations as we mentioned them to her. She kept cards, letters, essays and schoolbooks. At some point, during my early teen years, I too started keeping little pieces of paper, scribbling down my thoughts and tacking postcards into keepsake books. 

I haven’t looked at the pile of stuff I’ve accumulated over the years for a long time. A friend reminded me of them, and I took a peek at what I call “my files and bunch of stuff that lives in boxes and should probably be chucked away” last night. 

As I giggled my way through some of the terrible poetry I wrote at 14 (the Vogons would’ve loved it), laughed at faded photographs and swooned over love letters I never did end up sending (sorry…) I wondered what my thought process was behind chronicling so much. I have diaries, journals and reams of coded notes that would make not much sense to anyone but me – but, really – who was I keeping them for, other than some strangely nostalgic self-indulgence session?

And then it hit me, in a way that’s never really quite permeated my brain yet. I never was keeping these things for me. These little scribbles that talk of my days growing up were never really for me – they’re for my daughter.

I can tell her the stories I remember about growing up. I can console her with tales of when I felt hurt, when she hurts. I can regale her with hilarious retellings of the silly card games my family would play and when she asks me “what was it like when you were my age, mom?”

And now I can. Not only can I tell her what I recollect but I can show her. I can read her the essays I wrote in school, and I can pinpoint for her the days I want her to keep as part of her personal history too. My files and boxes of mementos have been catapulted out of the junk pile, and into the “oh we must keep these” list of essentials.

Just as I’ve chronicled my life, I hope she does too. As much as our digitally-driven lives have turned us towards charting our lives online, I still want her to take photos, hold on to keepsakes and cherish little bits of paper she might scribble on one day.

That little memento dream is coming true, though, as I sit here, watching her write in her diary that her gran gave her for Christmas. I’ll make sure it never meets the junk pile. She’ll want that one day. 

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