I have a box, an old boot box. It’s the box I got with a pair of eelskin boots in 2000 from a generous boot-wearer who shared the same shoe size as me. This good man has given me three pairs of boots. I’ve kept that particular box and filled it over the years with memories.
There are cards and notes and programs from a ceremony or two. There is a letter from my niece, penned when I was a student at UofI in Urbana-Champaign, when she couldn’t have been ten. A congratulatory poem from my pastor who is a father figure to me–it’s about something I love, flowers. A report card from Hampton University, my home by the sea even though I left there after a semester because I was too immature, a little scared, and lonely. Something from my mom sits inside. Things from people I care for litter that cardboard too.
This box, and the second one I have started as the years have gone by, lifts up some of the special pieces and people and things that fill in the story of Michael Washington. These elements are from the people I would want to remember, perhaps in one seminal moment, if I had a life-threatening emergency. These things represent the folks whose faces I never want to forget. Those people, all of them, are the folks I’d want to touch in case of an emergency. I would want them to know that they matter. That they matter to me.
Me and my wife keep a black folder with the essentials–the will, the Power of Attorney, the Health POA.
I keep cards from people usually because I want to capture the time when someone was nice enough to write something lovely. I keep momentos because they connect me to old things which were good or fun or exciting. Where there are no recollections in my boot box, there is the list of folders in my email where I find messages from friends and loved ones whose words are so much better than my own. There is the file at my office that stuffs with undeserved notes or cards which someone tacked on my door, slipped in my hand, or mailed to me because of something I probably can’t remember saying or doing.
I say often to people that I don’t make new friends easily. I have good old ones. I want them all to know how much they mean to me. I want them to know that if I could, I would “keep” them all, especially when it mattered. I’m thinking oddly of a scene from Casper!
I probably wouldn’t reach all those good people in an emergency. So my hope is to live like all those events, those scenes, and those people in my life still mark me. After all, the things we keep say so much about us.
Two questions for you: What do you keep? Who would you call if you experienced an emergency, if you were facing a grand calamity or a natural disaster? If it’s too personal to answer, just think about it.