Somewhere, in one of your closets or in your basement, do you have a big box of “sentimental” items that you just can’t part with? Until last week, I had three big containers of cards, letters, articles, drawings, awards, and all the trappings of a history that I wanted to keep for posterity. And there were more photographs than I could count. I suppose I could have kept the tubs in a closet until I was in a nursing home. “Oh, did you see Mr. McCoy’s collection of antique Christmas cards? They are really, really old!” Well, that’s about as depressing a thought as I’ve heard in years, so I decided to gut the collection and keep only what really mattered. And that’s when I learned a few things I wasn’t expecting.
I learned that the cards I received weren’t nearly as interesting as the envelopes they came in.
The cards were nice, slick, professional ones from the store. But the envelopes were anything but professional.
Several had “DADDY” scrawled by tiny hands. One had little hearts that my wife had drawn with her pen. Many had little cartoon figures that my kids drew.
I saved those envelopes and cards. I put them in a little display book. A few times, I put the envelope in as the center of attention. I wanted to show what mattered most, and that wasn’t something that came off a fancy printing press. It was something that came from my family’s hands and hearts.
I learned that photographs aren’t that much fun, if there are no people in the pictures. On our family vacations, my mother always used to say, “Make sure you get someone in the photo. Don’t just shoot scenery.” I used to hate hearing that. It meant standing still in front of a mountain or a geyser or a gorge and having to fake a smile. Well, she was right. I have hundreds of photos from around the world, but the only shots that matter are the ones with my friends and family. “Look how small he was!” “Oh, wow! Look at those pants and that hair style!” These are the real photos. These are the ones that matter. My shots of Italian cathedrals were interesting, but the photos of my newborn son smiling at me were beyond priceless. Save your memories, but know which are real and which are just tomorrow’s recycle bin fodder.