Wednesday, April 25, 2012


After my sister died, I asked my brother-in-law to keep his eye open for some old scrapbooks belonging to my mother that my sis had kept in her "treasure drawer." They eventually turned up and he sent them on to me.

Of the three items, only one was really worth keeping in the family and I sent it to one of my daughters. I donated a second one to the local historical society, because it had quit a bit of information in it, as well as some photos, of the hospital auxiliary that she belonged to.

The third one I tossed, but I had some very ambivalent feelings about dumping that one; it contained all my mother's poems. She was an inveterate poem writer - and 99.9% of it was nothing but doggerel. Her poems were all little cutesy rhyming things and really weren't very good. She sent all of them out for publication to various poetry magazines and greeting card companies, but she never sold a thing. She saved everything, pasted them in her scrapbook and I'm sure she enjoyed reading them from time to time and reminiscing what she went through to give birth to a particular rhyme. I'm sure she thought of them as her legacy.

Before I tossed that last one in the dumpster, I consulted my brother to see if he wanted it, but he did not. Neither did I, so it is gone now.

However...... What bothers me is wondering if all my life's-worth of writings will meet a similar fate. I've been weeding out some things that I really don't need to have survive me. I have loved re-reading them, but as I age I realize there are some things that even I can finally part with -- like all the reflections I wrote when I was working for a group of clinical psychologists who were more needy than their patients! I kept a journal, to make sure I was staying sane in the midst of all the mental mayhem that went on around me day after day. I found it very interesting in retrospect, but it certainly wouldn't be so to my kids, so I beat them to the punch by tossing it and a lot more inconsequential "stuff" into that same dumpster.

Nevertheless, it was a sorry thing to think that my mother, who was so fulfilled by her writing, had her collected poetry, bad as it was, assigned to the trash heap. I really think it should have been saluted by being burned like a flag that has outlived its usefulness.

But whenever I think too hard about my own legacy, with all my life's odd assortment of words a part of it, I can't help but think of Rev. Abner Peet's lament in Edgar Lee Masters'  "Spoon River Anthology:

I had no objection at all
To selling my household effects at auction
On the village square. It gave my beloved flock the chance
To get something which had belonged to me for a memorial.
But that trunk which was struck off
To Burchard, the grog-keeper!
Did you know it contained the manuscripts
Of a lifetime of sermons?
And he burned them as waste paper.

So there! What goes around comes around. Always has, always will!


Olga said...

Oh, my. You have reminded me to go through old journals and purge. Some things are just meant to be forever private.

Dee said...

It must have been meant for me to read your blog today...I was just trying to give myself permission to get rid of some things I see as treasures. Whenever I attend an estate sale I usually feel the need to get rid of clutter so my loved one's are not left with any guilt of tossing away stuff. Good post..:)