what we keep, what we throw away (a poem)

I have kept letters, and diaries from my teenage years.
I have saved photographs and thankfully, the negatives.
I have birth certificates and documents that belonged
To both parents and my grandparents.
I have valentines and drawings my children made in school,
Packed in an old trunk. Also inside the trunk
There are newspaper clippings:
Elvis Dies! Mount St Helen Erupts!
Harry Truman is president!
JFK Assassinated!
What I keep is more than this–
I keep people, friendships, memories.

What I throw away is more difficult to define
Because I am not a throwing-away kind of person.
When forced to, I donate boxes of books and knick knacks
To charities. I cannot bring myself to throw away anything
That has any value – whether to myself or
Someone else.
More remarkably, the man I live with
Saves more things than I do.
He always finds a use for some obscure bolt or screw
Stashed somewhere in his workshop.
I am getting better at throwing away
Plastic containers that held margarine or Cool Whip
But I put them into the recycling bin
Feeling I am participating in
A greater cause.

–Sandra Lee Smith


5 responses to “what we keep, what we throw away (a poem)

  1. I like your poem Sandy. It’s a dilemma, isn’t it? What to toss and what to memorialize?

    • It’s been the story of my life, Tammy. When we moved, in Nov 2008 to a new home in the desert, I had over 600 boxes packed with STUFF. Mostly books. That didn’t include all the other stuff. And as soon as you throw something out, you will wish you had it. – Thanks for writing. Sandy

    • thanks, Tammy–yes, I guess that is another way to look at it – what we keep and memorialize…. thanks for writing. Sandy

  2. I love what you say. Alot of it is me. But, most are just bitter sweet memories of my family that threw me away. Children grown and with their own. Now, thats all I have is pics. memories and pain! Mary M

    • Mary, I have had my own share of bitter memories too, mostly with two of my sons–but also with a marriage that ended after 25 years – I hope I have learned to focus on the good memories and discard the bad. We all have bitter memories too. Sandy

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