The Waning Shelf Life of of Boomer Memorabelia

levi jeans_opt-2It’s hard to believe that my baby boomer generation is getting on in years.  Our ages range between 51 and 70 by now. We’ve celebrated so many decades of milestones along the way, including the births of our millennial children. That all adds up to one heck of a lot of memorabilia.

Most boomers save stuff, it’s part of our culture. We’ve not only held onto our own personal mementos, we’ve saved and stored all of our children’s stuff as well.

For certain, they are not lost or forgotten.  Through the years, we may have stumbled upon an old treasure that rekindled a memory or two, or intentionally went digging to find the wedding album or that elementary school class picture. And yes, we’ve probably shared some epic childhood stories and old classic photographs with our children.  At least once or twice, lol.

We wanted them to know who we were.  At least for me, it was important and a very intimate way to share my past. It was storytelling at its best, and we probably told the story on repeat for most of their young lives.  But those memory boxes were soon to be overtaken by a whole new generation of memories. Their own.

To no surprise, I saved it all; their artwork, projects, camp letters, school work from 1st grade through college, and photos galore. When we sold our home, we were faced with the daunting pull of the purge. (excerpt from my Diary of a Move-documented in 2010) Although we edited, condensed, and down-sized, our basement was still filled with an impressive stack of memory boxes.  Baby boomers and millenniums sharing space side by side. It never occurred to me that they were to be roommates for over 30 years.

But with both of our children recently married, it was time for them to claim their stuff and begin their new lives. Another downsize and yet another purge.

I asked them each to come home and go through their boxes.  As it’s been said of millennials, they have way fewer struggles with letting things go than boomers do. I witnessed this to be so true.  They were rapidly tossing pictures (if they themselves were not in them), and trashing old school papers and projects with no remorse. They took pics of pics on their iPhones if it wasn’t already in a sustainable photo album.

When they uncovered their sentimental sweet spot (and it was different for each of them) they hesitated and packed those memories thoughtfully into a “keep” box.  It was their personal decision to savor anything from baby shoes to autographed sports memorabilia, yearbooks, or a handwritten note. The interesting rethink was that now as adults, they too wanted to pass a legacy on to their future children one day. Just like me, they understood it would be important to share who they were as children and adolescents.  As for themselves personally, they will have so many more opportunities within the next 30 years to revisit and enjoy these saved childhood memories once again.  Down the road, it will be a special day when they rediscover these gems.

But here comes the clincher.  I realized at that moment that I did not have the same 30 + years ahead to justify keeping all this nostalgia.  I’ve since moved twice, so I revisited and touched the stuff many times now.  I have reminisced over four decades and have well enjoyed their stay. Perhaps bittersweet but the honest assessment is that my personal memorabilia (excluding photos) has a limited lifespan. Its value is waning even for me. More importantly, my children don’t want my old memories, they have their own. So it begs the question,  why and for whom am I saving this for?

Funny as we age and evolve, what was once considered sentimental, now just feels like clutter. If it doesn’t tug at my heartstrings, I’m OK with letting it go.  After all, they’re just things, not people.

So as my children continued weeding and filling trash bags, I too was compelled to reduce down my memory boxes and shed once more. Amongst my report cards, transcripts, diplomas, and trophies, I was ready to toss my autograph book from 5th grade, our honeymoon airline ticket, and hotel key.

Ahh, but definitely not tossing my patched-up Levi jeans.  Not today. 45 years later and they still fit me like the day I bought them. Sparking joy? Hell yea. Big time 🙂

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