Lots of things in this world are disturbing to me. Greed, poverty and heinous crime. The demise of the planet and the pervasiveness of mediocrity. Mismatched socks and the death of Gilligan’s Island. Oddly enough, I include technology on that list, too—or more correctly, the alarming pace at which technological devices are mass produced, marketed to the public and propelled into the great abyss of planned obsolescence. It’s as if we’re cultivating a generation of people who care less and less about the enduring nature of things and more about the latest nugget of innovation that promises to improve society in some novel way. That said, I fear that my kids will grow to devalue the permanence of things—despite the fact that on this particular day the notion seems wholly inconceivable.
As I’ve described so many times before (occasionally in horrific detail) the hoarding tendencies of Thing One and Thing Two are beyond all comprehension—as is their love of sameness. Ostensibly, their mission in life is to avoid change at all possible costs and to amass virtually every molecule of that which is deemed worthy of collecting—heaping it upon dressers, shoving it beneath beds and stowing it into forgotten corners of our pitifully disordered garage. Of course, they’ve come by this trait honestly. Captain Clutter could, at any given time, produce the following: a receipt for a television we no longer own, a tool I have never once seen in my life, an impressive array of his artwork from the fifth grade, a prized stash of his baby teeth. Yes, baby teeth. I wish I were joking.
At any rate, the hoarding gene seems inextricably present within my brood, although to some extent this gives me comfort because it implies there is hope that my daughters will feel compelled to hold on to the remnants of life that truly matter—the tangible stuff that will trigger memories long after I’m gone, serving to moor them to their childhood.
Like any good cynic, I’m skeptical that an electronic record could preserve the past on par with that which I can hold in my hands. Further, bits and bytes seem inordinately complex and elusive to me. Ethereal almost. Not to mention, data stored in this fashion is far from safe in my charge, having managed to delete countless items to my utter dismay. My husband, too, has mourned the loss of infinitely dear morsels of remembrances, having inadvertently erased a snippet of speech from his cell phone not long ago—one that was placed there by a certain six-year-old who breathlessly told of some robins who had apparently “…lost their way, Daddy!” Her voice, filled impossibly with the exuberance of youth on that memorable January day, cannot be replicated.
Indeed, lapses in judgment happen. Computers crash. Files become corrupt or irretrievable. That which is irreplaceable can be woefully distorted or lost entirely. What’s more, the digital wonders of the 21st century, although truly wonderful, somehow lack the essential element of palpability in my mind—especially as keepsakes go. Pictures and even video clips of my family at the shore simply cannot compare with the sack full of shells we gathered together and hauled back to Pennsylvania because someone insisted that we “…take the beach home, Mom. It’ll help us remember.” Even still, the briny scent of the sea hits me squarely when I open the bag to finger our bounty once more and to poke at the grains of sand that have settled to the bottom. In an instant I am back at the beach, feeling the warmth beneath my feet and hearing the gulls shriek over the waves that pound without end.
Likewise, an email doesn’t possess near the charm that a handwritten letter does—especially if doodles have been scrawled in the margins or a violet has been carefully tucked within the folds of the paper. Nor can a digital photograph compete with the inherent brilliance of a grainy, black and white 35 mm print. Moreover, a text message is not remotely related to a lunchbox note, or one that awaits beneath a bed pillow at day’s end.
Color me old-fashioned, resistant-to-change—a dinosaur even. That aside, I feel connected to what’s real and right for me.
Planet Mom: It’s where I live (tethered forever to that which is tangible). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.
Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel
One response to “The Value of Permanence”
Like the aforementioned Captain Clutter, I too mourn items from the past that were snippets of my life and have gone into the landfill because others did not believe they meant anything: Cherry & White magazines from high school that included my heartfelt poems–so far the only place that I have been published, a cheap plastic wallet that belonged to my grandmother who passed away when she was only 63 and I was only 11– the woman who raised me for years 3-10 and also wrote poetry and had a love of cooking, and other bizarre but meaningful, to me at least, bits of detritus from childhood and teenage times. While I do admit to hoarding just plain crap, mainly because I have too little time to sort through it all, there is much that is squirreled away because it just plain means something for some inexplicable reason. It does not matter if no one else understands it, or me; it’s mine, and it is important.