Going through your sentimental items can be overwhelming (I've spent about 4 hours on it so far and hardly made a dent), but it can also be enlightening. As I've gone through the process I've learned that hindsight really is 20/20, and our past can teach us so much.
Here are some examples of things I've learned in this process:
1. I was a lousy granddaughter. My grandmother lived a few hours away and so she would often write me letters, in which she'd say, "What's going on in your life? I haven't heard from you in quite some time." One letter said, "It was such a delight to talk to you on the phone! What a treat! I hope it happens again soon."
This might seem depressing- okay, it is depressing- but it made me realize as a mom how important it is for me to facilitate that relationship between my kids and their grandparents. There are a lot of reasons that didn't happen in my life (my parents had recently divorced, I was too involved in my own life, I was just young and stupid, etc.) but I want to make sure it doesn't happen between my kids and their grandparents.
2. My grandmother grandparented me. I see from the squiggly red lines under that word that it isn't a word, but it should be! I realized when I looked at cards she'd written to me when I was very young that she had carefully printed her messages, whereas later she used cursive. It was then that I realized she wanted to make sure I could read them- in fact, her print reminded me a lot of the print my 1st-grader's teacher uses when writing notes to her on her papers. And, in fact, my grandmother had been a teacher.
Another item I found was a little "journal" (just papers stapled together) she'd kept of a week I'd spent at her home with my brother. She had written the journal (in her neat print) and let us color the pictures. I love that she did that for us.
In another letter my grandmother had written me later in life she said that she was hoping I was making good choices, and that I should listen to my parents. I see now how she really cared about me and about the young woman I was becoming. (She also paid for my entire college education.)
3. My stepfather was trying really hard. I hadn't realized until I went through all my cards, separating them out by who they were from, how many cards were just from my stepdad. He married my mom when I was 12, and now I realize that those cards were his way of reaching out to me. Makes me love him even more to see how hard he was trying.
4. I was clueless when it comes to boys. I read journal entries, notes, and even printed online conversations and e-mails between me and some male friends and only now do I realize that some of those boys totally had crushes on me! LOL! Yeah. I was dense. Oh, well.
I also saw that I was kind of fickle with some of the other guys I dated. I was young and dumb and kind of self-absorbed in a lot of ways. But actually, I also saw that I was also kind of mature in some ways. Something for me to consider when I'm writing YA...
5. My best friend wasn't actually my best friend. I found a random questionnaire I'd filled out and one of the questions was, "Who is your best friend?" I saw that I'd written the name (let's just call her A) after I'd moved away from where she lived, and I said we had a long-distance friendship. However, I also found at least a dozen letters from that same year or two after I'd moved from another friend, O. She wrote long, detailed letters about what was happening with her and the friends I'd left behind. Oddly enough, there were no letters from A.
O and I are still friends to this day- a few years ago she actually came and visited me and my family in Richmond when she was here for a conference. A few years before that I remember talking to her on the phone shortly after I'd brought my first baby home from the hospital. I am still friends with A on Facebook as well, but I now appreciate O even more for the effort she made to keep me in her life.
So basically, I learned that the lens through which we view our own life might be faded with the clouds of of our own perception, obscuring some significant facts, and I realized how important it is to look at the evidence.
And isn't it interesting that the evidence is the written word?
Makes you wonder...what evidence are you leaving of your love in the lives of those who are special to you?
Just something to think about.