Unpacking: A Tale of Memory and of Hoarding

“And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts”- Wordsworth


If there is one thing more painful for me than making appointments over the phone, it’s making me, a pack rat, move. Anything. Ever.

Since late October into early November, piddling into December, and picking up serious steam in January, I worked (played, let’s be real here) at packing my home office. We need the extra room and moving my office from upstairs to our finished basement seemed like the most practical of all our options. I still vote for a She-Shed, but it’s February and I live in Michigan.

Moving my office proved to be a relatively easy affair and I did manage to purge some things. You know… unnecessary things like tax returns from 2004 and one of the two instructor’s editions of a textbook I no longer use.

Then there are the things that I must keep. And I have many of them. I have movie ticket stubs for many, if not most, of the movies I went to see with my mom on weekends in high school and in college. I have the birthday cards from a friend claiming we’d be “best friends forever” even though we’re not and haven’t been for many years. I have photos of my actual long time best friend and notes from her ranging from fifth grade through our senior year. I may even have humorous e-mails printed out (at least those put us in college). I have photos and cards from the members of my fox-squad, the girl friends that get me through the crazy day-to-day-ness of life and all its insanity.

(above: when we were kids, apparently I was on the left, now I’m on the right. Proud to be her right hand woman. And yes, if you’ve seen me recently, that’s the same puffy  U of M coat I am  still wearing. Hoarder.)


I saved the birthday cards that my mom and dad picked out with care and love, waiting until they found just the right one for the year. I have the Valentine’s Day cards I got as a middle schooler. I have the first Christmas card I ever received from a boy (gasp)!

I have a Happy Meal toy from the first Happy Meal that I remember my dad getting me. It’s a blue and purple toy truck (to satisfy your burning curiosity).

And these are small things, paper products, or photographs. This doesn’t begin to touch the things I have saved simply for sentimental value. It took me years to finally file the first Oxford Wildcats hoodie I received as a gift from my family. I still have the necklace that my first real boyfriend ever got me, and, I have the vase that the very same boyfriend brought me flowers in (nearly 20 years after the fact). I have the concert t-shirt from the time I saw Hanson at the Palace in 1998.


(above: this is the shirt I refused to get rid of until I was 25.)

In short, I have one of everything.

Last week, I was sitting in my office, dutifully working on a lesson plan and a Facebook notification popped up on my phone. It was my friend, Jen, who’d posted something on my “wall.”  I thought I’d look “later”, but “later” comes quickly when you’re a teacher working on lesson plans at 7:00 p.m.  on a Wednesday night.

It was a meme about remembering “code names” that middle school girls give their crushes. For some reason, the two of us thought that “ceiling tile” and “hands” were both excellent choices for the boys we liked. Clearly, I’ve been a seventh-grade girl, and I still don’t understand their mentality. I really don’t.


(above: me and Jen, ninth grade)

Anyway, after prompting, I even remembered who they were. I remembered “Ceiling Tile’s” first and last name. My friend has a photo of the two of them and I must say, he was a handsome young man. I remember him making me laugh and per my and Jen’s collective memory, he was in our health class. I can only imagine what the hell we found so funny.

This sparked a conversation between Jen and myself regarding our teenage years. We both agree that while we had fun growing up, we wouldn’t want to be teenagers again any time soon, if ever.

I wasn’t what you’d call a rebel. I wasn’t a rule breaker. I mostly colored inside the lines, and when I didn’t, I made sure it wasn’t something that could get me into serious trouble. I was always the grownup, and I’m sure that my longtime friends would agree.


(above: I am fifteen years old and laughing at Legally Blonde. In this same album, I have photos of my friends and I trying to bend and snap)


What Jen doesn’t know is that after our conversation, I went rummaging through my boxes looking for old photos, even more than the ones I found while in the process of moving. And even though I didn’t want it to happen, I got tears in my eyes.

These were not tears of sadness. They were tears of joy. I was filled with memory. I had so much fun growing up. From putting toilets in driveways (yeah, I did that), to crazy drives (getting lost in Utica thinking we were in Pontiac), and many, many, many sleepovers and dream sessions, I have lots of proof that I was once there. I did that.

I said that I have one of everything. While that is true, and some may call it a “condition”, I call it a collection. I have one of everything.

(above: Me, Jil, and Jen. 2013, me and Jil, Santa Monica, California. December, 2016. Me and Jil, high school. Year undetermined  and undisclosed)


I have memories of bowling during the summer and walking to the movies after school. Band camp (yes, I know the joke). Driving. Bad poetry. Gossip. Crying about what amounts to spilled milk today.

These things, artifacts if you will, are pieces of the events that have shaped me. And even though it’s darn close to hoarding, I’m okay with it. I might be a hoarder, but I have the best memories and laughs. Even as I write this, I am surrounded by my memories. Because in the end, we all are. If we’re lucky.


(above: my desk, as I write today….)





2 thoughts on “Unpacking: A Tale of Memory and of Hoarding

  1. I have a box of every card you ever sent me or gave me. We may not have the friendship we once did but I will never forget it!! Nor will I ever get rid of said cards!!

    Liked by 1 person

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