Parting with the physical reminders of happy days is the hardest part

My best friend from high school and I shared apartments when we were in our early 20s.

She had just returned to the area from two years at Vanderbilt University and secured a clerk job while she contemplated her next move. I had just returned from two years at Skidmore College, had recently become employed at Bangor Daily News, and was debating my next step in my education.

My friend Dee (right) and I shared apartments when we first hit the world as adults. Here we are visiting the White Mountains in the 1990s.

My friend Dee (right) and I shared apartments when we first hit the world as adults. Here we are visiting the White Mountains in the 1990s.

Pooling resources was a perfect solution to our mutual housing issue, and satisfied our desire to live on our own.

We didn’t have much money between us, but we were frugal and resourceful and we managed, often finding what we needed for our household at yard sales. I remember one particular sale where we found a box filled with a miscellaneous assortment of nails, screws, brads, bolts and other fasteners.

We thought we had a gold mine.

We found some empty jars and sat on our red braided rug — a $5 yard sale find — one evening and began the tedious task of sorting out the contents of the small-to-medium-sized box. It was a lot of work and took us hours, but we had a wonderful sense of accomplishment when we were done.

Plus we had just about any kind of nail, screw, brad, bolt or fastener we could possibly need for a while. A long while. As a matter of fact, I still have most of them — sorted neatly in their jars and stored not so neatly in a cabinet in the garage.

Occasionally, I look among the jars to find just the right fastener and there it is, more than 30 years later.

But as I paw through my treasures, I feel guilty when I see some have rusted while stored in the garage that is not temperature-controlled, wasting their usefulness. And I tell myself I really should go through it all and throw out the majority of it.

Some of the many jars of nails and stuff I still have that my friend Dee and I sorted more than 30 years ago.

Some of the many jars of nails and stuff I still have that my friend Dee and I sorted more than 30 years ago.

The problem is that I am nostalgic. The jars of all shapes and sizes evoke happy memories of when my friend and I were just starting adult life and not realizing what a treasure that time of simplicity was. So each time I open the cabinet door to sort through the jars, I end up closing it again, promising myself I will tackle it another day.

Promising myself I will be more practical about it next time.

I have so many other things like that around too. Like tattered strawberry boxes whose rich green colors have faded to nearly white and remind me of happy hours of making jam. My grandmother’s dilapidated sewing machine that cannot be restored. The old dresser that belonged to my grandfather that I no longer use.

Or the jar of peanut butter my husband Jim used to bait mouse traps. I have picked up that jar of peanut butter to discard it so many times since Jim died of pancreatic cancer in 2010, that I have lost count.

But there it is. On the shelf where my husband had kept it, along with bits and pieces of other of his projects. Another reminder of our life together that can never be again, and another change I cannot seem to make.

On some level, I feel a sense of connection to special people and special times through those physical things, even though other physical connections are lost. And I just balk at giving them up.

My mind knows that cleaning out what I no longer use or is no longer useful will not diminish my treasured memories, but in some cases my heart just won’t let my hands do what my brain instructs. Some change is easy; other change is not.

Practicality eventually will win and I will make at least some of those changes.

My friend long ago moved on to her career in engineering and a life in another state. Jim has moved on to Heaven. And even as I live among the remnants of their past and mine, I am learning how to move on too.

 

 

 

 

JULIE HARRIS

About JULIE HARRIS

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.