So we were going through our old entertainment center the other day, and inside one of the cabinets was a stockpile of cassette tapes. Yeah, cassettes. Singles, entire albums, mix tapes, weird, concert tapes of my dad's to which I had applied little pieces of scotch tape so I could record over them. It was hilarious.
Except that it was Jeff's intention to throw all of these tapes away. There I was, chuckling with sentimental glee over Janet Jackson, Dee-Lite, and a mix tape Mat Solomon made me in tenth grade, when Jeff pulls our garbage can up to the table and begins depositing armloads of tapes into the trash with a sickening clatter of plastic. I watch, speechless for a few seconds, until he reaches for the pile in front of me.
"Stop!" I cry, leaning over to shield my mountain of bad music from his hungry, trash-happy hands.
"What?" he looks at me. "You're not keeping these, are you?"
"Of course I am," I clutch Rhythm Nation to my chest.
"When's the last time you listened to any of these?"
"Come on, honey," he shakes the trash can as if attempting to entice me to toss Shamrocks and Shenannigans inside.
"No," I start placing my tapes inside a faded Case Logic holder. "You can throw yours away, but I'm keeping these."
"I don't know...maybe Rollie and Elsa will want to hear them someday."
"Baby, that's what itunes is for."
I shake my head and zip up the tape case for emphasis. There. No one's going to throw away my tapes now. It's a shame my best ones are gone...The Bangles, Richard Marx. My sister sold them to the Princeton Record Exchange for cigarette money. I'd like to think that somewhere, playing in the tape deck of a maroon, T-top Trans Am, some dude still rockin' a mullet and some Zooba pants is jamming to my copy of Ice Ice Baby.
I've always been something of a pack-rat. My collection of stuff used to be much larger, but being married to a man who throws away birthday cards while they're still warm, I've been forced to whittle the stuff down to the essentials. Gone are the ticket stubs I kept from movies I saw with high school crushes (and I'm using the term 'saw' loosely here), the old corsages, the valentines and love letters and wallet-sized photos with corny epithets written on the back. I have yearbooks, notes from my girl friends, a few cards and a stack of old diaries, and that's about it. In a way it's good that I didn't keep some things (I didn't really need a copy of my 5th grade Alice In Wonderland script), but I'd come to view my stash as artifacts, tangible evidence that I had a past and it was something I'd like to remember (most of it anyway).
I also kept some things with the intention that someday my own kids would want to see it. Although now, I'm starting to wonder....I mean, my mom kept some of her old stuff, and I was never exactly salivating to sift through it. The letters are disappointingly innocuous, the diaries about as juicy as an overcooked turkey. Seriously, either my mother was a total square or an alien. Neither option would surprise me.
I'm not sure what I expect Elsa's reaction to be when I pull out my wedding dress from 1999 (and has yet to be dry-cleaned, let alone preserved) and show it to her. If she's anything like me, she'll raise one eyebrow and say something cheeky like, Wow, Mom, so empire waists were really big back then, huh? Nice sequins. And forget about letting her read my high school diaries. Especially not when she's still in high school. The last thing I want is for her to think that making out with a boy is okay just because I did it. I want her to think Boys are Yucky until she's in her mid-twenties.
So maybe the time has come for me to shed some of this stuff. Maybe I should clear out the old shoeboxes full of friendship bracelets and games of MASH and gum wrappers I kept because it was from a piece of gum Marc Eldridge gave me in seventh grade and I tried to work some voodoo spell on it so he would finally find me attractive (note: it didn't work). I need to make room for diaramas and hand-made Mother's Day cards and fingerpaintings and macaroni art from my own kids. I need to start building up an arsenal of their stuff, to cultivate the Pack Rat gene I'm certain I passed onto them.
I still refuse to throw away my Girl I'm Gonna Miss You single. At least not until Milli Vanilla shows up on itunes....