Autograph Book

March 2, 2001. 4:13 a.m. Mariposa, California

Today is Memoirs Class Day. I had produced a page to read to the class each of my second and third visits, and told myself I could skip this week. My mind kept going to the closet where many boxes labeled Archives have awaited my attention for seventy years. They were/are filled with five generations of memorabilia, thrown in at random, always in a hurry.

Every time I contemplate filing or organizing these items, the emotional pain that goes with that thought brings tears streaming down my face. It’s almost like the family memories that are resting in those boxes have lived and died, and now I am resurrecting them for reexamination. Yes, there is charm. Yes, there is humor. Yes, there is awe. We were all living our lives full bore, with the zest of youth, finding our way with the times and facilities that were there, then.

It feels as though those people have died, and I am just now recognizing their deaths. Yes, most of us are still living, but we are not the same people. We have aged, matured, found new interests and skills, moved, and met new friends. We are not the same people.

Today’s psychologists, exemplified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, perceive the process of the acceptance of death includes Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance. As I took a glance into each of those many boxes I came to realize that I have been in Denial that they were there, hiding them in the back of the closet for decades.

But now it is time. Time to take these items, one by one, contemplate how each fits into the whole, decide which need to be recognized, decide which need to be discarded, decide how to preserve each of them. I come to realize this will take the rest of my life, for as I am recognizing the past, I am still living in the present, and things that happened ten, or even five years ago belong in the story as much as what happened one hundred years ago.

Anger has not come to the fore yet, except I blame myself for being unorganized and sloppy in many aspects of my life.

Bargaining took the form that I would take care of one item a week, and not worry about the rest until each of their turns came. Thankfully, I believe there is no hurry. I also know there will be no end; only stopping at some point, for whatever reason that happens.

Depression is a part of life. It’s place in the process will be there, be recognized, and lived through.

Then, finally I found “Acceptance.” The first item of Acceptance is on the top of the first box. It is a booklet 6 ½ inches. It is bound in milk chocolate colored sateen, with a spray of faded painted flowers, and labeled Autographs.

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The first entry is July 7, 1934 when I was eleven years old. Opened at random, one page reads, Dear Carolyn, As I was gazing in the sky, Something fell right in my eye. Darn those sea gulls, Good thing cows don’t fly. Your friend, Kelly.

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