Posted by: Maryann McCullough | September 1, 2012

Story for September 2012




I remember the pleasure my five-year-old self derived from sorting the poker chips into neat piles of red, white, and blue. Spinning that carousel with every chip neatly stacked in its proper column was a thing of order and beauty. I had made it that way.

Some many years later, confronted with a closet in need of purging or a drawer in need of straightening, I still respond with enthusiasm to the task of imposing order on chaos.

I am genetically programmed to respond positively. My mother deserves the credit (or blame) for this quirk in my nature. Every grandmother visit to our home in Arizona was accompanied a suitcase containing a large box of plastic trash bags. She would attack my closet first with “Have you worn this in the past year?” The good feeling resulting from her paring down my life and eliminating its clutter imprinted on my psyche. I am now a person who buys really large boxes of really large plastic bags.

This is all to explain how last week in the course of reading a novel by Alexander McCall Smith, I had an “ahha” moment when I came upon the phrase “the housekeeping of memories.”

It was a visual epiphany. I envisioned myself taking on that task choosing some wonderful memories, wrapping them carefully and storing them away with easy reference to be pulled out on a bad day. Others required a more up-front location with easy access a bulletin board sort of storage: passwords, phone numbers, the names of my children and such.      

Some memories I can choose to delegate. I am fond of grocery lists, computer reminders for birthdays of loved ones, the DVR programming of our television. The memory may tucked away somewhere but the responsibility for its storage or retrieval is no longer mine. 

And then there are those memories that I would choose to be relegated to those large plastic trash bags – what to do about those? The educational process has schooled us in the skills required for remembering. I know how to remember. I don’t know how to forget.

The purging of my physical possessions is easy, even pleasurable. I feels lighter, leaner.  The material detritus of our life can be discarded, but the elimination of memories we would chose to forget is not as easy a task. What to do with those memories that should be discarded in that black trash bag then tied securely and set out with the trash?

Neither coddled nor nurtured but unbidden, I regard them as unwelcome intruders in an otherwise good life. They could be sorted; generally filed either under shame (my bad thing) or pain (someone else’s bad thing). But, with deletion as the objective, filing would be a waste of time and effort. My question regarding their disposal is not a rhetorical one. Don’t anticipate the answer to be found in the next paragraph.

I recall reading of a very select English fraternity whose sole requirement for membership was that the applicants stand on a particular street corner and not think of an elephant.

The society has yet to acquire a single member.



  1. I am also of the ilk that loves to purge closets and drawers 🙂 Memories are harder to get rid of. Some of them just won’t budge!

    After your thoughtful post, I now regard a bookstore/library as a sort of Goodwill for the soul. Authors who have found a way to give their memories and stories away~

    • I like where my thoughts took you = a new way to think of sharing our stories.

  2. It has been suggested to me to place these memories (worries, shame,fears etc) in a pretty box with a bow and store them up somewhere not easily reachable in a closet…since you are more of a pretty person this may work better for you than a big ole black garbage bag.

    Thank you for your stories Minnie. xx M

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