The attic is bare, and our downstairs spaces are now crowded with boxed books, old photos, cards, letters and files. They’ve invaded the basement and every room below the attic. All this because it’s time to give the attic a new life. After a bit of dry wall repair, painting, carpeting, and a handrail on the attic stairs.
D began the project weeks ago, sorting things out. Keep, toss, or give away. Especially books. Academic books occupied at least 75% of the attic. In rows, like a library. His and mine going back to our college years. Scholarly, earnest, serious books we used as students, professors or administrators.
During the last two days I spent most of my time in the attic, going through my piles of accumulated evidence and memorabilia from teaching, travel and family life.
Here are things that made me teary, exhausted or both.
- Seeing how many places D and I visited for vacations or professional trips. Takeaway: Marrying D was a great way to see and hear about the world.
- How many postcards I’ve purchased as a way to bring some of our travels home. Though they’re small, they remind me of more than appears on the postcards. Keepers.
- Reminders of my large extended Renich family. Sadly, I don’t anticipate more official Renich family reunions. I loved looking through old reunion photos and family newsletters. More keepers.
- My long emails to Diane when I visited Kenya for the first time (1997). I was terrified Diane might die (of ALS) while I was gone. I also wanted to take her with me in my emails. I wanted her to see in her sharp mind’s eye exactly what I was seeing. Irreplaceable.
- How many recorded notes I kept over the years. Formal and informal. Back then it was about having a written record of appointments, meetings, interviews and important events. I didn’t trust my memory. But I did trust my bankruptcy court note-taking skills. It also helped me keep my listening and observational skills sharp. No, I didn’t keep all the notes. And yes, it gave me little pangs when I let most of them go.
- I was astonished (if not exhausted) at how many students touched my life. And the wild, wide diversity of countries and cultures they brought into the classroom. Not in an online setting, but in person. Many struggling with English as a second language. Many going through life crises and changes in professional status. Too many now gone from this life. And many I probably wouldn’t recognize if I saw them today.
Despite the emotional and physical exhaustion of the last few days, I’m grateful for this look back into a world I won’t experience again. Sometimes it’s difficult being on the outside. Still, I don’t want to go back. I love life as it is—even though it’s not always neat and tidy.
©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 March 2018
Photos taken by DAFraser