Let us now praise those who keep their ephemera in immaculate order, fully identified and thoughtfully edited.

Okay most of us aren’t people of particular cultural or historical import. Our scraps of paper, tchotchkes, photographs and whatnot are unlikely to be the evidence on which great scholarship will be built and outlooks revolutionized.

Nor can we be sure that all these items we have so obsessively hoarded will be treasured by our descendants down through the generations.


Probate requires sorting, evaluation and dispersing Dan’s shelves and boxes and file cabinets and closets full of stuff. So does my eventual relocation to a home better suited to an elderly widow devoted to public transportation. Dealing with Dan’s stuff requires confronting my own.

There is also only so much sorting and cleaning that can be done in the short term. I need the grandchildren to return and take the items they have already identified as sentimental or otherwise desirable. I have invited the head of the County public schools art department to come over and see if there is anything she or her teachers or her students might find useful. With luck, that will empty out most of a room. At some point I need to sell or give away the vast quantity of fishing paraphernalia Dan accrued over most of eight decades of piscation. To be honest, some of it is mine, including the fine fly rod I inherited from my mother.

The books? Ai-yi-yi, the books. I’ve started on that but there are so many more to go.

I Should Talk

Pauses in coping with Dan’s stuff lead to the occasional confrontation with my own. I know some of those boxes are mine but I don’t actually recall what is in them.

Helen boxed up

Part of the problem is that, as family genealogist, people simply placed things in my keeping when they wanted to get rid of them but didn’t feel right about tossing them. Published genealogies and related books. Old diaries and logbooks. Letters. Photographs.

Some collections have potential homes. My Pop’s letters from World War I and diaries from World War II and such will go to his archive at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University. My great-aunt Helen spent several months in 1934 sailing on the Hussar V (now the Sea Cloud) ostensibly as the tutor to ten-year-old Nedenia, the daughter of E.F. Hutton and Marjorie Merriweather Post. Nedenia grew up to be the actress Dina Merrill. At any rate, they left Mar-a-Lago (yes, that Mar-a-Lago), passed through the new Panama Canal, wandered around the Galapagos Islands, visited Tahiti and concluded the trip in Hawaii. Helen’s journals, letters, photographs and bits and pieces from that journey are fascinating but they take up quite a bit of space. I am hoping her alma mater Mt. Holyoke College can find room for them.

Revisiting Adolescence


I pulled a few boxes I suspected were mine off some other boxes on top of a couple of filing cabinets. Various and sundry things but one of them was stuffed with the proof I had once been a teenager. Report cards and standardized test scores. Letters from boyfriends I haven’t thought about in more than fifty years. A photograph from the post-graduate year I spent at Princess Helena College on scholarship from the English-Speaking Union. Some soft-bound books with lined paper, the kind of thing we used in classes back then.

One of those books was filled with…poetry? Were those poems I had written? I guess so because I am pretty sure if this was more of a commonplace book, I would have noted the authors. The middle pages were full of notes and names of people most of whom I don’t remember at all. Then the back section starts with the journey Sue P, fellow on E-SU, and I took across Europe until it was time to fly back to America.

Adolescence wasn’t great fun the first time around. Revisiting the details now that I am in my eight decade? Not fun at all.