Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why I Am Reluctant To Throw Books and Papers Away…

So we have just completed a most grueling two weeks of going through the traumatic process of waterproofing and updating our basement, in which my office is located. It has been a very emotional process going through the books, papers and evidence of my professional life from the past four decades. It has been a pensive, nostalgic and humbling process and at moments I marvel at how far we have come and other documentation reminds me how things are still so broken in our world. That being said, the thousands of people I have worked with, the so many communities I have been involved in and the too many students to even count are all in my memory and on the pages before me. No wonder I can’t throw anything away. It’s not junk, it’s a part of me and what I have accomplished on this earth, and that is precisely the problem.

My husband, Ken, on the other hand has no problem tossing text books and various papers and other souvenirs of his years in the medical field. Why this difference in approach? He claims I have OCD (which I define as Organized, Conscientious and Dependable, by the way!) but I really think it is something else. As a Jewish Educational professional, I so get that we are the PEOPLE OF THE BOOK! I LIVE THIS EVERY DAY personally and professionally! You never know when a D’var Torah I prepared thirty two years ago will come in handy, or a Shiyur I gave twenty years ago will be relevant to something new I am creating. On the other hand, I did toss about two dozen Hebrew primers. Okay, so I know I won’t be using any of them again.

The woefully out of date history books are another story. I actually loved teaching history and showing my students what life looked like when it ended with a 1968 publication date. It was quite valuable. Nonetheless, I finally parted with my Essrig’s ISRAEL TODAY, since today was a full thirty-five years ago. Klapperman’s HISTORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE however, still looks down upon me in my office, with its publication date of 1956. I did try to dispose of the four volumes, but the faces of my elementary Hebrew school teachers popped up in my head. What was I to do?

And then there are those souvenirs of thirty one and a half years of child rearing. Really, who can toss the twenty five model Seder plates crafted by the cute little hands of your now grown children. What would THEIR children think if they knew that today’s treasured art products are tomorrow’s dumpster feed? So to protect all of our integrity, I am holding on to my children’s projects including a rather curious paper written by our twenty seven year old daughter, Rachie in fourth grade on some type of Himalayan Ibex, thirty one year old Yoella’s attempts at rudimentary handwriting, and twenty seven year old Talie’s first Siddur. For our newly minted college student, Brian, we still have to plow through his things in a cabinet in our family room. Something for a snowy or rainy day.

My husband claims it is the past and time to let go, but wait, don’t I always teach that our past is critical in mapping out our future! To be sure, the past is indeed the past, but it is part of us and always will be. In the meantime, tonight I have to go through the one box my mother had given me years ago. The 50 pages of arithmetic from 3rd grade I will whittle down to a few, but that funny report from Seventh Grade on some weather phenomenon I will keep (maybe our son the meteorologist will want to check it out at some point) and most beloved, I will hold onto two small birthday cards – one from my father’s father, whom I never met, to me on my fourth birthday; and the other from my mother’s mother who died when I was not yet three from my first birthday. I have already traced the writing, touching that place where my past finds its roots – in those who came before me.

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