The Keepsakes That May Not Make Much Sense to Others

Getting rid of keepsakes has never been easy for columnist Helen Baldwin

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by Helen Baldwin |

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If there’s not a 12-step program for sentimental slobs, maybe there oughta be.

As a sentimental slob myself, I come by it naturally. Let me explain.

Although my parents had little money when they married, Dad made a reservation for their honeymoon at a new hotel in town. After the reception, however, they drove right past the hotel and into a cheap little place called Rio Court. The ashtray they took as a souvenir served as a reminder of their humble beginnings throughout their wonderful marriage of 53 years.

When her oldest grandchild married over 60 years later, Mom passed on the ashtray.

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Paper, paper everywhere

When we had free time, Mom and I loved playing two-piano music, snooping at consignment shops, and gabbing over lunch. I never wrote “missing you” notes during the school day to her or Dad, but I did send silly cards.

It was no surprise that Mom kept all the cards; with rare exceptions, I still have letters and cards from family and friends myself.

I didn’t dream, however, that she would put all of those cards into a loose-leaf notebook and give them back. She wanted me to enjoy them and toss them myself. (She couldn’t.) I still have the card collection.

The “keeper” mentality also applies to family photos. When our children, Matthew and Katie, were babies, Eckerd Drugs had a double-print option. With film cameras, there was no way to tell whether a shot would be good, so I’d take several shots at a time and then get double prints.

I shared some of the photos with Nell, my mother-in-law, who lived 1,000 miles away. But the rest? A few made it to frames; most went from albums to boxes. I have yet to throw away a personal photo unless it’s totally blurred.

Photos, letters, and cards. That’s a lot of paper.

Hide the matches.

‘Nana saved your hair?’

Due to weekly snow after our move to an old farmhouse, months passed before I could bring in boxes to unpack from the old shed. From one box, I unwrapped two long hair braids. Matthew’s eyes bugged out. Before he could collect his wits to ask why we were in possession of human hair, I unwrapped my grandmother’s long, fine auburn hair, which she always wore in a loose bun.

Matthew could wait no longer.

“Why is there hair?”

I explained that Nana (my mother, his grandmother) had saved a batch of her mother’s hair, her own hair, and mine, for whatever reasons.

Stunned, Matthew exclaimed, “Nana saved your hair? Did she save your first droppings, too?”

I hope not.

An empty bottle of goat milk lotion

Randy, my husband, and I had no plans to expand our family beyond Matthew and Katie, so I cleared out baby items before we moved.

I shouldn’t have done that.

Despite our advanced years and compact house, we were as ready as possible for baby Jeffrey’s unplanned arrival. We were not ready for SMA two months later.

Jeffrey’s usual perch on my lap pillow shifted to a spot on top of our little mountain before he turned 6 months old. He’s surrounded by garden angels and a white picket fence.

Two days after the send-off for our sweet baby, Randy and I took Matthew and Katie to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for a “few days off” before they returned to school. Most of the previous few months and weeks had been intense; seeing the tiny coffin at Jeffrey’s service was unbearable.

Watching Matthew and Katie enjoying themselves was worth all of the efforts by Randy and me to put on a good front.

At some point during our trip, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel. While mindlessly browsing the gift section, I stumbled upon the goat milk lotion furnished in the restaurant’s restroom and had to have it.

Every time I opened the small bottle, I thought of Jeffrey. I used the lotion sparingly.

When the bottle was empty, I set it aside. I couldn’t toss it; like a genie’s lamp, it harbored Jeffrey memories, unleashing them whenever I popped the top.

I kept that empty plastic bottle, purchased in 1997, tucked inside a drawer for years. Sometimes I ran across it and pondered tossing it. Not ready to make that decision, however, I returned it to its safe place.

During one of my impromptu clean-out frenzies a year or so ago, I came across The Bottle in a drawer and felt ready to throw it away. Quite proud of myself, I set it near my computer and left it there until I was SURE I didn’t need it.

In a slight twist of sorts, I have no idea if I ever tossed it or not.

That 12-step program

Oh, if you hear of a 12-step program for sentimental slobs? Don’t bother contacting me. I’d never make it.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


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