Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Trunk Full of History

My children had a history lesson Monday night.

It wasn't part of their homework and didn't involve the United States or lands abroad. The focus was much closer to home.

In searching for a letter to include in a blog post, I unearthed from our attic a battered black trunk that has been with me since my first semester at the University of Maine in the fall of 1987.

The trunk has played many roles over the years - portable closet, bench seat and dining room table among them.

For the past 15 years, it has held a variety of papers and mementos that help to tell the story of my time on Earth.

Contained both in yellowed scrapbooks and loose piles, these items range from my newspaper birth announcement from 1969 to accolades and news clippings from my years as a newspaper reporter.

Most important among these momentos are the countless letters, notes and photographs from the early years of my relationship with their mother through the beginning of our marriage.

This history - correspondence we easily could have discarded at the time but didn't - tells stories of young love, longing and separation, of excitement for the present and dreams for the future.

Many little details associated with these stories, forgotten in the passage of the past 21 years, were recalled fondly as we shared them with the kids. Others were prompted by their questions.

This trip down memory lane on Valentine's Day was not planned but rather a matter of happenstance.

It was, however, an important reminder that we have valuable history scattered throughout our house - tucked away in forgotten boxes in the attic or in dusty photo albums that have not been opened in years.

This is history we need to share with our children before it's too late and its value changes from family heirlooms to a pile of trash stashed away in a trunk.

It offers a greater context to their lives - of how they came to be - and shows that we were "young people in love" before we became "parents."

In an era of text messaging, e-mail and videochatting, it also shows them the value of written correspondence and of starting and keeping their own histories to one day share with their children.

I'll make sure they each have a trunk to get started.

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