Today I was thinking of things that I’ve held on to for a some time. I looked down at the pair of socks I was wearing, and there was a gaping hole in the big toe of my left foot. I thought, “I must have had these socks for two years now,” but had no real reason why I’ve hung on to them. They certainly aren’t attractive, or comfortable, or practical. They’re just ordinary.
The longer I thought about the things I keep, the more I realized I can’t define my interest in most of objects I’ve held on to. Some things carry a simple sentimentality — a receipt commemorating the first ATM withdrawal I made in New York at the bodega up the street from my apartment. Other things, like a t-shirt I’ve been wearing since 2006 that is stained to high heaven, has seemingly zero relevance. It exists in my closet as a piece of clothing I’ve carried with me from North Dakota to Minnesota, to California back to Minnesota, from Minnesota to New York. When I look at it, it doesn’t conjure a single memory of an occasion or person. It’s just ordinary.
I have been writing in the same journal since 2009. There are only a few blank pages left to scrawl on, and within the next month or so, it will be another volume in my collection. The significance of this journal, much like my others, isn’t as much what I’ve written over the past two years; it’s what I’ve collected. A pocket in the very back holds little pieces of my life:
• A note a woman wrote me in Vancouver, B.C. with directions how to get to the train
• An e-mail forward from my mom with life advice
• A receipt from the original Starbucks in Seattle
• A ticket stub for Toy Story 3 at the Marina Theatre in San Francisco
• A Macy’s receipt from a lonely Saturday night, when I had particularly excellent customer service
• The obituary of a friend’s father
• Small notes from former boyfriends
• A museum ticket for the SF MoMA
• The newspaper clipping of the classified for our dog
• A transfer/fare receipt from the Van Ness Muni in San Francisco
• A receipt from a chocolate shop in Seattle
• Parking stubs from Vancouver, B.C.
• A $3 lottery ticket
• Two photographs of me and my sisters
• An autographed album cover from a Fargo, ND musician
• A note I wrote to myself, to look at 10 or twenty years from now, to remember what my life was like
• Four photobooth strips with an old boyfriend
Maybe I hung on to my old holey socks not for their looks, but for their story. They’ve been with me through years, states, and long days. This too goes for all the things tucked in the back of my journal; there is a beauty in the minute relics, and that is how they have the power to proliferate into an entire memory. Each thing I’ve held on to can bring to mind a complete afternoon, evening, day, adventure or misstep. I can remember what the weather was like on a particular day, or what I did before or after. I might remember how I was feeling, or how the person I was with was feeling, or how we felt together.
The answer, then, to why I’ve kept these things is twofold: They are comfort, and they are worth more words than I could write.
Also, you never know when you’ll need it again. What have you kept?