Poe got it wrong.
It’s not the worm that conquers all.
I discovered last week that I no longer have to worry about where to store my great-aunt’s prayerbook, her mesh evening bags c. 1910, my mother’s First Communion prayerbook, her college and nursing school diplomas and class photos, my First Communion prayerbook, or the dozen or so photo albums documenting my first 18 years.
Mildew got ’em all, along with two dozen 1920s novels for girls (The Motor Car Girls, the Marjorie and Mary Jane series, early Bobbsey Twins), magazines and books documenting the Kennedy assassination, and innumerable holy cards from great-relatives funerals.
I knew it would be difficult to sort through the memories my mother had stored in two very old hump-topped trunks that came over with somebody’s ancestors on the boat from Ireland. The trunks were stored in attics during most of their first century, but in the mid-1960s my parents moved to a home that didn’t have an attic. It did have a semi-finished basement, though.
Things were fine for a while, but then some water got in, probably in the 1970s, and then things began to deteriorate (in so many ways). And now it is time to clean out the house.
I’d already decided that anything chipped, cracked, scratched or otherwise damaged was not going to make the trip to Wisconsin. But I hadn’t expected to play Grim Reaper to so much that had been kept for so long.
It was an intense afternoon.
I was able to save a handful of very old photos. When I came home, I transferred them to a new box and put them in our attic, hoping a couple of Midwestern summers will bake the smell away. By the time I realized that the photo albums also reeked, the trunk of the car was full. I wasn’t keen on driving 400+ miles with them contaminating the passenger compartment, so I arranged to have them shipped.
When they arrive (and I hope it takes a while), I’ll sit outside some mild winter day and remove them from the albums. Many of the photos are falling out, anyway; those old black photo corners had an adhesive life of maybe ten years. I’ll note the date and ID people left to right on the backs of the photos and put them in the attic with the previous generations until summer works its magic.
You will not be surprised to learn that I am now casting a cold eye on many things I have accumulated over the years.
© 2011 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go