Letting Go

NanNan’s Letter Folder, later embossed with my name at ordination.

I clutter my home with love.  Well, things really.  But they are icons of love – hard to let go of and yet…it is time to simplify.  It is time “to small” my life.  Small should be a verb. These are the “letting go” years.

I stood there last week holding the red leather letter-folder in my hands with tears in my eyes. It had faded over decades from a fire-engine red to a sort of burnt orange from years on a desk; but remained beautiful. I had two other letter and stationery folders, both of which were thin and easier to carry around.  I loved all three.  But did I NEED all three?  Really? Did I need even TWO? If I shut the closet door and turn off the light, then perhaps the problem will go away.

 “It is just a thing.”  I kept telling myself. But that it was “just a thing” did not make it easier to let go of.  I know.  I know.  Decluttering is the “in thing” these days thanks to little-miss-perfect Marie Condo.  But I have better stuff than she does, so, there’s that!

As we all get older, we are trying to let go of things – too much furniture, too many files, stuff in closets, basements, plastic storage containers (classier than paper boxes…), garages, drawers we never open, sheds and storage units.  Family members of the next generation won’t take it…they are busy collecting their own possessions which they will also have to unload in 50 years when they are old, balding and fat like me. Letting go of things is hard because it recalls endings – the inevitable departure from this lovely, painful, delightful, infuriating, delicious life.

Yesterday, I finally gave the leather letter-folder away to a person who loves it; and the second  letter folder went to recycling.  I kept the third folder, for now.  The red leather letter folder was hard to give away.  Not because it was valuable or beautiful or needed.  It was hard to give away because a human, love-filled memory was attached to it. A sweet, dear, beloved memory.  It had a story.  Held a story.  It held part of my story. And I do not want my story to end. Though, end it will.  End it must.

My grandmother had given the red leather letter-folder to me with a fountain pen on my 12th birthday more than 40 years ago.  She was gentle and beautiful.  She had a soft British accent, wrote in blue ink the color of a Caribbean lagoon, survived London in World Warr Two, wore a dress every day and always smelled of lavender. I remember opening the folder’s gift-box.  It too smelled of lavender.  The gift-box was blue with yellow tissue paper. The red-leather letter folder was beautiful, thick, heavy. She sat with me as I felt its soft grain, gold tooling and internal satin sleeves. She told me of her love of letters – a love I inherited from her. We talked about the importance of letter-writing.  She told me that a hand-written letter was a gift of time and effort. For four decades I used that folder. I still write those letters in that same Caribbean-blue ink.

Sociologists tell us that on this one day, the United States contains more man-made things, than the combined possessions of all humanity, on the entire planet, in all of human history combined. Hmm.

Letting go of my beloved possessions is hard to do because each possession has a love-memory.  Each possession is part of an event, a conversation or a gesture of kindness from someone I love.  When I see something in my closet or a cabinet, I remember the person who gave it to me or the event for which I bought it; and I do not want to let go of the memories. Of the moments. Of those people.  Of my life. Of my story.

We all sometimes need to do hard things.  Letting go of my love-things is hard.  But do it I must. So I keep a small book by my bed.  Every time I take something to Senior Thrift, I write down what is leaving me, and I write down the story which caused me to keep it for so long.  Letting go is hard.  It needs small rituals. 

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