These days, I turn my cupboards upside down, looking for traces of the past, and I’m forced to the sad conclusion that my life so far could not have happened at all, because there’s nothing to show for it. No letters; some photographs—all of recent date; a large collection of books.
Luckily for me, when I was younger, I believed in writing my name on them (and forcing other people who gifted me books, to do the same) so that I now know, up to about 1989, where I bought a book and when. In more recent years, the title pages tend to stay blandly printed, so that I have to really think if the book’s mine at all. Mostly, I’m very certain. At least, with books, I am.
What can you get nostalgic about? Smells? They’re gone. Yellowing letters? I’ve torn them all up. Photographs? They’re painful and I’d rather not look at them anymore. I’ve covered my traces well.
But living in the present is overrated. I wish I’d kept bundles of stuff I could look at now. I’d untie ribbons, take out each letter from its well-preserved envelope and lose myself in them while my son looks on pityingly and in slightly respectful silence.