Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Little Bits of Paper

My parents moved half a dozen times in the fifty years of their married life. 

A basement suite in Victoria, a small house in Trail, unique houses they designed and built in Dawson Creek and Tumbler Ridge. Every time they moved, stuff went with them. Furniture. Clothes. Household effects. Works of art. Mementos. 

And little bits of paper. So many little bits of paper, following them from place to place, packed, unpacked, looked at, put back in the box. Once or twice I have made a stab at going through these papers with an eye to discarding them. I look at these little pieces of paper, saved and stored over the years. I haven't had the heart to throw them out. 

Not yet.

Maybe today will be the day as I ponder my own possible next move.

Here, I find the lengthy correspondence detailing why the grandfather I never knew did not have his original birth certificate. Here, my mother's original teaching certificate. Her report cards. Diplomas. Awards. Newspaper clippings. The "Ritual Calling of the Engineer", inscribed with Dad's name from 1948. Blood donor records. The obituary of the navigator on Dad's aircrew. The death certificate of Dad's sister Muriel who died when she was three. Postcards. My father's Sunday School attendance records from 1937. Love letters. A newspaper article announcing my maternal grandfather's promotion to bank manager in the Highlands. My baptism certificate. Poems written by my brother. My great aunt's expired passport. Dad's letter announcing his resignation from his teaching career. "Dear Mr. Parslow: While my affection for young people as not diminished, my enthusiasm for entering the arena on a daily basis has..."

So many pieces of paper, sorted, packed, moved, unpacked, read and re-read. Added to and deleted from over decades of life.

Some make me smile like the Christmas card from my brother "Bobby" and the first thing I ever published in the Edmonton Journal and an article I wrote for the ATA News called "Nice Swim Doug". A photo of my four year old sister from the Peace River Block News. Emails sent by my junior high daughter, printed off and stored away. 

Some make me wonder. Why this one Mothers' Day card with the cute kitties? Then I read  inside. "The world needs more mothers like you. One more anyway." A card sent to my mom from my cousin just a few months after her own mom had died.

Each piece saved for a reason. But what reason? Who were they saving it for? Each other? Their kids and grandchildren?

Decades of their life story in bits and pieces. 

The housekeeper in me wants to throw it away. The archivist in me wants to curate it. The librarian in me wants to organize it. The writer in me dreams of telling their story. 

But the daughter in me puts it back in the box. 
Little bits of paper. 
Your journey is not over yet.