Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sentimental Value

Do you own things from a decade (or many decades) ago that you just can't seem to part with? I think everyone has something in their closet that they don't use but keep for the memory it holds. At least every woman does. Men might be a different story.
I call this sentimental value.
TLC calls it hoarding.
Sure, at some point it becomes a condition that must be treated by reality TV intervention but for your average citizen holding onto possessions long past their time of use is normal. We do it because at some point in our life that possession had special meaning. Maybe that special something takes you back to a certain place with a certain person or maybe it reminds you of an era of your life that is now behind you.
For me, the possession is a jean jacket that is completely faded and has a small hold in the right breast pocked. I haven't worn it in over five years, still it occupies a hanger in my closet. Why? It was the first thing I ever bought at the Bloomingdales in NYC on my first visit to the Big Apple. The jacket was a splurge, but my Mom insisted that I must have it - love her! She is always insisting I must have cute articles of clothing. She has good taste. Most of the clothing she insists upon become my go to staples of my wardrobe. Like this jacket, for example. I was 13 when I bought the jacket and I wore it all through middle and high school. Then, one day, I cast a wandering eye on another jean jacket. No, it was not in Saks Fifth Avenue or Nordstrom. Just your typical Gap Outlet jacket. I tried it on and immediately knew I must have it. The styling fit me perfectly and the price was right. I bought it and still wear it.
Pause: there is currently a snake in front of me. No worries, he's on the other side of my screened in porch. Just one of the joys of moving to Florida. New wildlife to interrupt the thought process.
But back to the jacket.
I retired my beloved Bloomingdales jacket that day and replaced it with another that didn't hold half the sentimental value but did cost well below half the price. The new jacket wasn't as faded and didn't contain a hole. Everything has a life span, right? Even Bloomingdales jackets? I think so. Replacing the jacket was just a natural progression.
Usually the next step for me would have been to bag up the old jean jacket with other old clothing and donate it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or the like. But not this time. I couldn't part with it because it was from my first trip to the big city. I have since been to NYC countless times. I know how to find my way around its streets and have even ventured onto the subways. I am well acquainted with the city, yet that jacket still has deep meaning to me.
Now that I have moved to Florida I am faced with a dilemma: when you move on physically what possessions do you need to bring along and what can you do without? Moving to a new location makes you reevaluate what you truly need. Packing and unpacking is a burden so if you don't need a certain something then you simply don't bring it. You donate it or pass it along as a hand-me-down.
For most items of clothing I have no problem with this. I've donated garbage bags full of clothing. But there are certain things in life that aren't just their name like "jacket," they are a cherished memory.
Last night my Mom was going through my things back home in Erie and stumbled upon said jacket. She asked if she should bring it down to me. Truth be told, no she shouldn't. I haven't worn it in years. The next question was, "Should I give it to Noelle (my niece)?" I hesistated. Silly as it is, I actually had to pause. Noelle would get so much use out of a jacket that is currently just taking up space. She would love it and look great in it. So, why the hesitation? Because of the memory. Letting go of the physical possession symbolizes the moving on of time and the past getting farther away.
In the end I told her to give it to Noelle.
The jacket isn't the memory.
The memory is walking the streets of NYC with my Mom and aunts. Seeing my first (off) Broadway show. Staying at the Marriott Hotel on Lexington Avenue. Eating at Tavern on the Green. Wearing a pair of shoes that rubbed my foot in the most painful way after a day of walking - a memory I would rather forget.
The memory isn't the physical thing, it is the sweet thoughts and recollections that you can carry with you without ever having to pack a special box for it when you move.
What is more important than the things we possess are the people who share in the special moments with us, not the things we bought in a store.
So, clean house.
Give away the things that just take up space. Let someone else make a precious memory with your special something. Give it the opportunity to play a role in someone else's cherished moment.
Just because you give away the jacket doesn't mean you give up the memory.

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