...for a different kind of girl

silent surburban girl releasing her voice, not yet knowing what all she wants to say about her life and the things that make it spin. do you have to be 18 to be here? you'll know when i know.

Monday, August 24, 2009

do you remember when, yeah, we used to sing...

Among the things I love to do is throw things away. If our huge garbage and recycling containers aren't overflowing each collection day, I feel we've failed. The sound of the garbage truck making it's squeaky, lumbering turn onto my cul-de-sac each Thursday morning has occasionally prompted me, Pavlov's dog-style, to scurry around my kitchen one final time to find some errant bag of fuzzy baby carrots or a carton of questionable cottage cheese. Somewhere in a landfill out there is a $100 Home Depot gift card we got when we purchased our Dyson (pause for appropriate muck sucking reverence) two years ago my Tool Man insists I tossed out in a fit of filth purging fancy, but to that I say nay. I am committed to clean, but I am not crazy. Tool Man misplaced that card and can't admit it, but that's a discussion for another day.

Today's topic is tossing things. Over the weekend, I began the long-term job of tackling our basement, that half-space of our house serving double duty as a hovel for our children and a catch-all for paperwork and other life items we have no other place for or that Tool Man refuses to toss out (I'm not talking to you, mysteriously lost, very worthy gift card, but I'm definitely talking to you, Marvin the Martian items too numerous and unnecessary to count). Opening the basement door is like unleashing a challenge deep within me. Amid the chaos, I stand beholden at the top of the stairs and envision the final scene of Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark. You know the one. That infinite warehouse of mysterious and yet perfectly arranged crates lining the walls, forklifts silently whirring down aisles to tuck things like - in my dreams - toy dinosaurs and pirate ships back into their properly assigned places. Mmmm...give me a moment, won't you...

While I was toiling away in the depths Saturday, I collected a pile of newspaper clippings and photos my children have been featured in and some other assorted mementos of their childhoods to date that I keep in a large plastic container tucked away in the basement's lone storage closet. Also in that container are several packets of letters written to me over the years. Several years ago, in an even bigger cleaning flurry, I went through the container and tossed out stacks of letters I received from pen pals when I was in junior high because I assumed I'd obviously never have contact with them again (this was before I learned Facebook was the great uniter AND my brain allowed their last names to vanish)(so, hey, if your name is June and you're from Virginia, or you're a red-headed boy named Stephen from Scotland, hello!), and a few mundane notes from college friends I once felt compelled to keep but determined were clearly unnecessary.

Among wedding and birth announcements (some not necessarily in that order) and letters from my parents sent to me while I was away discovering everclear and determining what to do with my life are also a small handful of cards and notes Tool Man gave me while we were dating, and under those? Under those is a massive tome of rubber-banded memories from the man I dated through most of college and for three years after. The collection begins with his high school senior photo and the ticket stub for the first movie we saw together (Parenthood - nothing like a light-hearted comedy about family quirks and the love of children to not put any pressure on a guy you barely know but can envision having babies with one day) and ends shortly after the inclusion of two ticket stubs to U2's Zoo Station tour the last time they dared enter my state (which, it should be noted, were quite shockingly affordable, yet provoke the type of memories in me that make it difficult even to this day to listen to Achtung Baby with anyone else in the room or car with me) and is padded by letter after letter after countless letter. Our relationship dates back to the days before the internet, my friends. OK, that's not entirely true. There was the internet, but it was big and bulky and involved things like dot matrix printers, and this cowboy boyfriend and I were just two broke drifters who counted our pennies post-graduation so we could pay our rents and make long-distance phone calls to the other in between postal packages. Considering we were mailing each other letters every other day, you can fairly assume our telephone bills were massive. I don't think my savings account has recovered yet today from all the times I had to visit an ATM to steal money from myself to cover monthly expenses.

I've tried at least twice before to toss these letters. Perhaps more. I don't purposely ever wander downstairs to paw through this part of my past, but there are many tucked within that particular rubber-banded packet that I could almost recite by heart even though I've not seen this former love in nearly 17 years. There are many ink-smeared pages that include plans for the wedding we never had, the life together that was advertised as nothing short of amazing, and the children we one day hoped to raise. There are the letters sent to me after we broke up that include lines about figuring things out and hopes for my happiness. I can recite those, too, plus the letters I received filled with his heart break when he learned I was involved with Not Yet A Tool Man. Those envelopes are flimsy and thin and bent along the edges, and the quotes he wrote along the outer edges seem faded because I often carried them for weeks - sometimes months - in my bag or tucked away in the pages of a book, pulling them out often to re-read them.

The last letter I received from him was in 2003. In it, he told me he still had every letter I'd sent him, and in closing, told me he was marrying. That letter was one I only read once before I put it away among the others. Once, that is, until this past weekend, when I sat back against an old crib mattress and amid the chaos of Legos, old baby clothes, and this life, and snapped the rubber band off a part of my past. Here's a tip. If you have even the slightest hint of PMS, if you know you can't watch a 'Hallmark Presents' television movie because the commercials will slay you, if just the thought of puppies and kitties makes you weak and prone to say things like kitties rather than kittens, DO NOT read old love letters! Seriously. But if you do, come prepared. No half-assed box of tissue will likely do. Say what you will about time and space, but seriously, when you've given your heart to someone, I quite think that they retain ownership of that part of you even you don't end up sharing your days together.

So, by now you're perhaps wondering if, after reading these letters, after having the ugliest of ugly cries, if I finally tossed these old letteres away. Why, just think of the number of tissues that could be made from all that notebook paper! To the moon and back! The answer is no. As much as I love throwing things away, there's something about this bit of trash or treasure, depending on how one wants to look at it, that I can't seem to bring myself to cart up to the recycling bin. Maybe one day. Or perhaps 6,205 more. Silly, perhaps, but at my core, I'm a bit of a silly girl.

How about you? Any old love letters lurking around in your drawers? Or did you get rid of them? Ever regret it, or have you never given them a second thought after dumping used coffee grounds and perhaps the last of any fuzzy-skinned baby carrots atop them?

Labels:

57 Comments:

Anonymous TwoBusy said...

LOVE this.

We've got plenty of fuzzy carrots, but no old, hidden love letters from longago whatevers. There was a time when I had a huge cache of the same, but that went up in flames - literally - many, many moons ago. And if my wife has any... I don't know about them, and I don't want to know about them.

Monday, August 24, 2009 9:57:00 AM  
Blogger Desmond Jones said...

Bittersweet post, my dear. . .

No, I have no old love letters saved to/from old GFs not named Molly. I'm guessing if I were to come across 'em today, I'd mostly want to curl up in an impenetrable ball of embarrassment, anyway. . .

Of course, I never had nearly as much of my time and life-experience 'invested' in either of my GFs, as what you describe here.

And besides which, I've thrown my life 'all-in' with Molly, so saving old love letters would seem a little. . . I dunno. . . off-topic?

But I DO have several years worth of my love-notes to Molly saved, both those that I'd let the kids see, and the other ones. . .

Monday, August 24, 2009 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger The Savage said...

Most of the "love" letters and cards I've gotten over the years (though few they were{the cards and letters, not the years}) have been used as kindling for bonfires which reminds me... I got kindling to set alight....
PS/ I lust you.
PPS/ I gave you and award on my blog.

Monday, August 24, 2009 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Swirl Girl said...

I have only one love letter that was ever written to me. A real one, not a psuedo-Hallmark-on-the-occasion-of-something-like-an-anniversary-or-the-obligatory-Mother's-day thing.

I still have it ...it was a real live poem with rhyming couplets and everything!@

Monday, August 24, 2009 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger ZenMom said...

Oh, this was a great post.

I understand the love of tossing things, but those letters sound like keepers.

I used to have some journals from back in the day that served to elicit the same sort of bittersweet nostalgia. I was so sad when they were destroyed in a flood a few years ago.

Such things are really irreplaceable.

Monday, August 24, 2009 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Meg said...

Bittersweet. I'm more of a toss and hold onto the memories girl, but I have the rare letter and whatnot from exes. I didn't really have a relationship, before J, that involved me keeping mementos.

I have a question for you, my dear. How does Tool Man feel about these mementos sticking around? 'Cause J has photo albums from his past. 75% of them are just really cool pictures he's taken, but the other 25% are adventures with his Ex. And a part of me hates to see them around.

Monday, August 24, 2009 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Chasity said...

I have a giant stack of letters shared between myself and Bonehead. Because he was in the Navy we actually spent less than half of our first 3 years in each other's presence. I do have letters from my life before Bonehead, though- I just never read them.

My philosophy is if it's not generic and hallmarky, I keep it. Anything original and sweet stays, even if it's just a poem or a sweet word on a napkin. That goes for Birthdays, Anniversaries, you name it.

Otherwise, it's in the garbage can, getting soggy from stray Froot loops.

Monday, August 24, 2009 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Cocotte said...

WOW - I love to toss crap as well, but I still have all my old love letters. I have no idea why I can't get rid of them; guess I don't want to throw away those memories quite yet. As badly as some ended, those years were still great ones.

And like Desmond, I have a big box of love letters/cards from Husband. I need to go through and just keep the ones that aren't X-rated. I don't want to die and have my kids read some of that horndog stuff.

Monday, August 24, 2009 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Sailor said...

The only ones I've kept, or wanted to have, were the ones to/from Lynn. Any others (not many), I don't have any regrets at tossing them. As Desmond says, they'd be a bit off-topic, no?

Monday, August 24, 2009 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Bex said...

old love letters, songs and poems written about me, paintings painted for me ... all of that is neatly stored in a secret location somewhere in IL where my hubs cannot get to it, bc he will throw it away - not out of anger or jealousy but he will think, "how can that stuff be important anymore? its from other dudes."

although when i sit and think about what once was and what could have been, i am so glad i took this road. i love my fam and all of the dysfunction that comes with it! and i love throwing old shit away.

Monday, August 24, 2009 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Desmond Jones said...

Hee-hee. . .

Cocotte, Molly and I get a certain degree of amusement at the thought of our kids finding our X-rated notes after we're gone. Let 'em know where they came from (not that it's all THAT hard to figure out), and that they were all, every last one of 'em, our 'love children'. . .

WordVer = 'slyzyme', which just seems to invite some manner of wry comment. . .

Monday, August 24, 2009 12:46:00 PM  
OpenID thedailysnark said...

We've been going through the ol' purge at home and it's brutal. I've broken a shredder already while trying to get rid of the stack of bills my husband has keep for the past 10 years. (Why? Dunno.) But I did find a couple of love letters from the guy I dated all through college, and even thought I have no interest in him anymore, I couldn't part with them. I couldn't tell you why, either. So I packed them up into a box and shoved them in the back of the closet.

Monday, August 24, 2009 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger Legallyblondemel said...

Having grown up with hoarders, I too revel in the art of throwing sh*t away. The one thing that piles up in my closet? Letters - from past loves, past friends, past lives. I'm keeping all of 'em.

Monday, August 24, 2009 2:37:00 PM  
Blogger creative-type dad said...

I never attempted to save all of that stuff. Only because I didn't want anybody to ever find them.
But my wife did discover something when we moved from an old GF (it was...uh raunchy) and nearly had a heart attack.

I'm completely with you on the recycling bin. If it's not near full I feel like I'm personally responsible for killing millions of sea monkeys.

Monday, August 24, 2009 3:00:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt Becky said...

I do not have any old love letters lying around. I'm not sure that I dated anyone who would have sent me any and I don't know if, after marrying the sweetest yet least demonstrative person I know, I could stand reading about my haunting beauty.

Unless, of course, *I* wrote it.

Monday, August 24, 2009 3:32:00 PM  
Blogger Brian o vretanos said...

Throwing things away is so satisfyingly cathartic...

I'm the opposite of you. I don't dwell on things past and have a very uneasy relationship with them. I don't really identify with the person I was 20, 10, even 5 years ago, and in that sense I envy you.

Monday, August 24, 2009 4:28:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Woman said...

I threw out all my old love letters, but then made sure I stalked the important exes on Facebook until they talked to me. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and now I can see how awesome my life is without them, and how different it would have been if we were still together. It's often a frightening prospect.

Monday, August 24, 2009 5:59:00 PM  
Blogger CT Mom said...

Yes, I still have all the old love letters, cards, pics from my first serious boyfriend (high school/college). They are put away, haven't looked at them in decades. We recently reconnected, and he said he regrets getting rid of his old stuff. We're not stuck in the past, but it's one of those things - a nice warm memory, tucked away, just a reminder of a more innocent time when our lives were stretched out ahead of us, full of possibilities, no limitations.

Monday, August 24, 2009 6:26:00 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

No love letters, but I do have a stack of letters from my dad. He wrote to me a couple times a week when I was overseas. He was funny and sweet and oh my lord do I miss him.

Monday, August 24, 2009 7:29:00 PM  
Blogger Whitemist said...

Some times, I am overwhelmed looking in our basement! My stuff my as well be categorized as the CT Warehouse 13 for all the odd mysterious stuff in it. One day!

Monday, August 24, 2009 7:47:00 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

Beautiful.

For me many love letters I received from men were from men I didn't want to receive love letters from. The ones that weren't from psychos met their demise in boyfriend bonfires.

Monday, August 24, 2009 8:34:00 PM  
Blogger kimmyk said...

awww...

sadly yes. i have letters but not in letter form, but in mental form. i can still remember the words as i read them many years ago---and they hurt oddly enough. still love those old letters...

i have some more recent ones tucked away in my cedar chest from jamie. i dont get them out and read them though only because i mourn the person who wrote them somedays and the person they were written to. a younger less responsible version of me-but things change and we grow older...but thankfully love remains.

i dont like fuzzy carrots. yuck.

Monday, August 24, 2009 9:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Twenty Four At Heart said...

This was timely. I got rid of all my old letters. Recently my old -almost married him - flame found me on facebook. He now reads my blog daily and emails me several times each week. I flipped thru an old photo album and was surprised at all the emotions it brought on. Maybe it's true ... maybe when we give our hearts away a part of them always stays with that other person.

Monday, August 24, 2009 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

I have tried several times to get rid of all those old letters and also just have never been able to do it! Some things are just not meant to be thrown out. Sometimes it's nice to reminisce and think about what could have been, especially if you realize that "what could have been" is nowhere near as great as what IS.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 1:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said...

I still have letters written between my bestie and I in highschool. What are you wearing tonite? And so and so is such a whore.

But the letters, THE POEMS, the declarations of love between MPS and I, written while alone and then handed to each other when we finally got to see each other hours later, are gone. I don't know where, but it breaks my heart.

Don't toss them babe.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 4:01:00 AM  
Blogger MadameQueen said...

I don't really have any love letters -- maybe nobody ever loved me enough to write me letters? Or probably, I suffocated all my old boyfriends to the point that they never had the chance to write me letters? Sort of like, how can I miss you if you won't go away? Yeah. The good old days.

BUT, I do have some awesome letters written to me by my roommate at the summer honors program we both attended. She was the BEST letter writer and her letters are funny, witty and angsty and they take me immediately back to that summer and the drama and excitement that I felt that year. So yeah, I keep those.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 7:43:00 AM  
Blogger Christina Lee said...

well I don't know- somethings gotta be stashed somewhere- and no I wouldnt toss them- LOVED this post!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 8:24:00 AM  
Blogger FTN said...

I keep all of my old love letters from you, Fadkog.

My Mom always tells me that she has a ton of old letters in the basement from my Dad when he was in Vietnam, when they were newlyweds. She's never let me read them because she says they are all about the sexy-sex.

I'm sure if my parents die in 20 years, my brother and I will dig through those old letters and read them. And cry. Or laugh. Or stare at each other awkwardly. Or perhaps sell them on eBay.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 8:32:00 AM  
Blogger Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy said...

Awesome post. Seriously awesome.

Somewhere in my mother's house is a Chuck Taylor All Stars shoe box with every note, letter, ticket stub, and program from the time I was dating Greg, the high school boy whom I adored and broke my heart. I will never, ever be able to throw that away. But now I have to figure out how to explain to my husband when we move into our house why I am moving this tattered shoe box filled with stuff from an old boyfriend into our house. Oh well.

Oh yeah, and said boyfriend happens to be my good friend's brother, and now my friend on Facebook :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 8:37:00 AM  
Anonymous the weirdgirl said...

This is beautiful. I wouldn't toss them either. That's still a part of who you are, even if it's in the past. I only have a love letter or two, and one angry "how can you date him" letter but those are tucked away somewhere. Sad to say, I've lost track of where they are... but I know I have them.

I'm sure my husband would love to see me toss them all but since he only gives me cards with "love you, babe" on them, he can suck it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Kathy B! said...

This was a fabulously written post. You should submit it... somewhere. Wherever writers submit their writing. Yes. I knw that was helpful but I meant it.

Anyway, most of my old letters were tossed on my behalf by my parents. They love to throw my stuff away but don't do nearly as well with their own crap.

Sheesh, I'm grouch today!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Phyllis RenĂ©e said...

No love letters, but there weren't any to throw out. I do know where he lives, though, and saw him at Wally World once a few years ago. . . My heart stopped for a moment before I could even speak.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Badass Geek said...

I got rid of anything potentially revealing or embarrassing when I moved out my parents house. I didn't want to leave anything behind accidentally, and the people who were helping me move were nosy. Couldn't risk it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 2:29:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt Juicebox said...

I even have the one and only love letter my ex husband (aka The Jackass in these parts) ever wrote me. I kept as proof to myself that he DID ask me to marry him and not that I forced him to marry me, which is what he tells people.
I also still have all my penpal letters. They are in storage but I'll never throw them away.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 4:11:00 PM  
Blogger Anna See said...

i still have all my old love letters. i am a big purger, but not when it comes to this. great post!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 6:28:00 PM  
Anonymous anita tedaldi said...

I used to have some old letters, and cards some of them were in Italian (I'm from Italy) but then my husband, saw them and told me he accidentally threw them out!
I was very angry and tried to look for them but never found them.
I guess they live in my heart?!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger Laggin said...

No old letters to save, really. But I do have angsty poetry I wrote about boys...and one scratchy "tape" where ex-bf croons a song written about me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger Bee said...

I understand keeping mementos I really do but I have not kept a single thing from any of my exes. Including pictures. I don't know why I'm like that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger Carolyn...Online said...

Oh my god I felt that in my gut. Seriously. I'm glad you didn't throw those away. I wouldn't have.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 3:18:00 PM  
Blogger Tulipsanticipation said...

No letters, but I was quite the journaler in high school and there's plenty of ramblings about boys in there. Can't get rid of them, bc it's proof of how much I've grown since then.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 3:42:00 PM  
Blogger Mary Ellen said...

Yeah, maybe a few. But I don't read them - I only like to know they're there.

And, for the record - there is NO SUCH THING as too many Marvin the Martian collectibles. Marvin rocks.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 10:09:00 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I keep almost everything. The things I didn't keep? Old love letters and my journals from when I was a kid. Got rid of them all.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger lime said...

i have letters from penpals, from cousins, the ones my father and grandparents wrote me in college, but no old love letters that were mine alone. one former bf was not the writing type. the other was abusive and the only letters he sent were after i broke up with him, they were not somethign i wanted to hang on to in any way shape or form.

i have just one old love letter from my grandfather to my grandmother when he was serving in the pacific during ww2. i found it among some things i was given after they both passed. that i cherish.

Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:08:00 AM  
Blogger for a different kind of girl said...

Oh, my friends, I just sat here and responded to each and every one of you, spilling more guts and some tears, and then I tried to make that comment stick 10 times before I saw a note at the bottom of this from Blogger telling me I was being entirely too wordy! TOO WORDY!! Nervy.

So...because I have to do it this way for now...thank you, all of you, for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts. There's a lot I wanted to put in this post, but there got to a point where it was like reading the letters again. I had to stop for various reasons.

You are all awesome, and that is my love letter to each of you.

Thursday, August 27, 2009 4:10:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I can't throw away pictures of my first big love, and if we'd written, there's no doubt a rubber-banded packet would be tucked somewhere in my closet.

Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:05:00 PM  
Blogger The Savage said...

Dude, yer pretty

Thursday, August 27, 2009 9:13:00 PM  
Blogger thatgirlblogs said...

I dated someone for 6 years and had every note he ever wrote me. I really regret throwing them out! He and I are facebook friends now. NOT the same, LOL.

Thursday, August 27, 2009 11:27:00 PM  
Anonymous calebmorley said...

I don't know why people keep old love letters. My current girl found some of them from when I ws with someone else. Lots of fussing ensued.

Friday, August 28, 2009 12:18:00 AM  
Blogger The Stiletto Mom said...

My old love letters from a romance with a Coast Guard boy (based in Hawaii no less...) are neatly tucked away in a drawer with a red satin ribbon around them no less. You can't throw your personal history away.

Friday, August 28, 2009 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Bogart in P Towne said...

I still have the homemade doll my college gf made for me...it is cool.

Thought of you as I posted today.

Friday, August 28, 2009 1:04:00 PM  
Blogger Bogart in P Towne said...

I probably should not have said that last line...

Friday, August 28, 2009 1:04:00 PM  
Blogger Desmond Jones said...

Damn Blogger. . .

And of course, it doesn't tell you you're being 'too wordy' (and seriously? YOU? TOO WORDY??) until it's too late to do anything about it, like save it somewhere where you can bust it into smaller chunks, or something.

And my WordVer is 'upsitra' which sounds like it belongs in some ancient Eastern sex manual, or something. . .

Friday, August 28, 2009 1:54:00 PM  
Blogger Sherendipity said...

First of all, let me just take this opportunity to invite you over to my house. You can pretty much throw away anything you want, as long as it's clean and tidy when you're through. The house, that is...clean and tidy.
Anyway....I was never a "keeper" when I was younger. Nostalgia hit me in about my 30th year, and I'd wished I'd saved. Kept.
Then again, there are memories that I surely saved. Kept. Memorized. I wish I could throw some of them away.

Friday, August 28, 2009 6:37:00 PM  
Blogger Zip n Tizzy said...

Brad and I were on opposite coasts when we met pre-internet days, so I have a box of letters from both of us to eachother. I haven't read them in at least 10 years. I'm almost afraid to. I think I might embarras myself. Some day I'll sit down and read them all.

Saturday, August 29, 2009 8:58:00 PM  
Blogger Chag said...

I've always thrown out/burned all memories within three months of relationships ending. I'm a sentimental guy.

Saturday, August 29, 2009 9:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Juggle Jane said...

I don't get very sentimental about most things...but love letters and diaries are 2 things I will never throw away.

This line summed it up perfectly: "Say what you will about time and space, but seriously, when you've given your heart to someone, I quite think that they retain ownership of that part of you even you don't end up sharing your days together."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009 6:50:00 PM  
Blogger msprimadonna67 said...

I'm a seriously sentimental fool. I've kept tucked away a box of old letters--from friends and old boyfriends. They're pieces of my history that ultimately led me to where I am today, so even though they're evidence of past lives and loves, I love the role they played in getting me to my present. I don't think I could bring myself to throw them out, even though I've only gone back to revisit them perhaps twice in the last twenty-five years.

Sunday, September 13, 2009 3:33:00 PM  

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