Monday, December 29, 2014

Remembering

I love my son. Among his many talents is an aptitude for heavy lifting. When his father and I were young and spry we set a good example for him.  One of his favorite stories is emptying his Junior year apartment at Georgetown, me in gym shorts and a tank top and sneakers, carrying two boxes precariously balanced in my arms as I maneuvered down the steps past another mother, this one dressed in silk and pearls, delicately holding a dry cleaning bag, containing one dress, as she wondered where the rest of her family was hiding.

As age and infirmities and bullets have intervened, we've come to rely on Big Cuter's presence for heavy arranging.  This afternoon, in between bouts of Guillotine, he was on the ladder in the garage, bringing down boxes labeled Psych Books and Cornell Papers and Law School Stuff.  I can promise you that none of the treasures contained within that cardboard has been seen in this century.... or the latter half of the previous century, if I think about it.  We've had children and careers and a dozen or so homes and we've carted this stuff around to each of them.
Some of it will be saved forever.  My foreign doll collection (when Europe was a lot more than just a web click away) will be dusted off when FlapJilly is a little bit older.  
Spain, Holland, Israel

But do my heirs really need my assessment of the juvenile justice system circa 1974?  Will anyone be grateful that I saved the program from the conference at which I presented a short program in 1977?  As I went through Daddooooo's desk when we sold our ancestral manse, I held his fourth grade report card and wondered.... would anyone else ever care?  Today I laughed with Big Cuter as I predicted the same fate for him and his sister..... unless he schlepped the boxes and I made some decisions this week.

I'm so very very very glad I did.  On the top of the Cornell box was this letter to me, from my father, at the end of my freshman year.  Universities were blowing up all over the country, and Cornell was no exception.  We were ending the semester early, closing the campus in protest.  The shootings at Kent State were eleven days old.  I was involved in the outskirts of the protest movement, but I'd traveled to Washington, D.C. the month before to join the Mobilization to End the War.  I'd gone with tear gas protection and a promise to stay safe.  Reading this as an adult, as a parent, is a different experience than being 18.
And because I was one of the few people who could read his handwriting, I'll retype it for you here:
5/15/70
Dear Suz
The Ides of May are upon us and we yet survive.
Hope you are very fine and well and I look forward to seeing you soon and having you around.
Lots of platitudes floating around in my head but don't want to annoy you with them but this is not a platitude      LOVE! Daddy.
 
Some things are worth saving.  Perhaps, thirty or forty years from now, The Cuters will have a similar moment.  I'm donating the books and saving the letters. They can decide.

2 comments:

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  2. Hey A/B! I found a letter I wrote to my son when he was suffering from the childhood torture of chicken pox, some of which erupted on his face. He looked in the mirror and asked me in all seriousness, "how could anyone love me if I look like this?" I was proud of the letter I wrote to him that night, but I never gave it to him! I just found it the other day. He's 28 now and I think he might appreciate it now. Thanks for reminding me that letters are still a great way to communicate.

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