JONATHAN CARROLL | OPINION COLUMNIST
So often, when cleaning season rolls around, there are two types of items which we encounter under beds, behind dressers and at the back of closets. On the one hand, there are the I-can’t-believe-that-I-didn’t-throw-this-out-years-ago’s– the forgettables. On the other hand, there are the I-can’t-believe-that-I-let-this-fall-to-the-wayside’s– the mementos. It’s curious to think that, to two separate people, two of the same kind of item or even the very same item itself, can be thought of as a forgettable and a memento by each, respectively. Moreover, some items even start off as one, before switching to the other in the mind of the very same person, just at a later time. Because of the variability of any item’s value in a person’s memory in this way, we can stand to reason that the item itself actually has little value on its own, and the only worth which some forgettables have, is in the memory which makes them thought of as, instead, mementos.
Let us imagine a certain item, say a bit of sports memorabilia, say a baseball caught on a person’s engagement day. This person cares for the item to keep it in good condition, and then passes it down to his child. The child sees no value in it until told its story, after which, in respect to his parent, he continues to care for it until passing it down to his own child, and so the story continues. As the baseball continues to be passed from parent to the child, the people in the story fade from memory, belonging to a generation long ago, but the baseball is kept in as good of condition as it can be, in respect to those who held it before.
Perhaps the reader already understands, but to make matters explicit, consider the status of the baseball as both a forgettable and as a memento. The condition of the ball never changed from the time it first became a memento on some person’s engagement day up until the present; its keepers made sure that it was well kept. On the other hand, with the introduction of every new person to it, that person perceives it as a forgettable, since a much newer and nicer baseball could be picked up from the store for only a couple dollars. Once told its history, though, that person views it in a new light– as a memento. Thus, the baseball on its own stays consistently as a forgettable, but with a story to accompany it, it becomes a memento. This state of flux between the two dies down, though, as the story becomes less meaningful to each generation which receives the baseball. Once the story has lost all meaning, the ball may remain in the very same condition as when the very first progenitor of its keepers held it on that special day, and it will be a forgettable. Nothing has changed about the baseball itself. It is only in the memories which surround it, or lack thereof, which alter its status as either a memento or not-a-memento, or what we may call its base state: a forgettable.
So what does this mean for us? I do not mean to advocate for tossing away all of our mementos. After all, they do serve as fair conduits for good memories. More so, I believe that we need not view the loss of mementos with such sorrow. As long as the story or memory has meaning, then we may hold onto the same fond feelings, regardless of the physical forgettables which we’ve kept from those relevant events or times. So next time cleaning day rolls around, take a look at both any forgettables you find and those nominal mementos, but keep in mind that the true values of your memories lie within yourself, not the forgettable bits and trinkets that have been encroaching upon your territory to build new memories.