It’s not as though I don’t already have enough to worry about. Here I am, trying to pack up my life of the past 28 years, sell my old house, buy a new one, transport a neurotic dog and five birds (including one very vocal parrot whose language may get me tossed off the flight!) 800 miles to their new home while keeping my fledgling business functioning. And now I find I have to worry about my papers.
The worry started when I read about the controversy over where Senator Stevens’ papers will be housed. It grew as I read about Nixon and Clinton’s papers. Then I started rummaging around in the detritus that I’ve accumulated over five decades. I started to get frightened at the thought that some day people would be going through my papers and wondering why I felt a need to save a Barrow telephone directory from 1983 or a MarkAir dividend coupon. My experience with cleaning out the bottomless pit I call my filing system has led me to that conclusion that if I ever thought I’d have to donate my papers to an institution, I would just burn them.
For instance, I found doodles in notepads I had for some reason saved from my days as a big bureaucrat back in the early 80s. At the time, I spent an inordinate amount of any given day in meetings with federal officials that were as boring as bat doo-doo. So I doodled. Some of these doodles are fairly elaborate and could easily be misinterpreted as violent if looked at the wrong way. There is nothing to say the line emanating from the stick figure’s neck HAS to be a noose. After careful thought, I buried those pads at the bottom of a garbage bag and personally followed it to the dump to see it burn.
Then, of course, there is that childhood diary I haven’t quite finished with yet. It is full of my teenage angst. I still feel that given the time, I can work those issues out and actually grow up to be an emotionally healthy human being. I’ve often slated time into my life to do just that over the past 40 years. I think I’ll hold on to the diary just a little longer – I should have some extra time when I retire. But I will definitely note in my will that someone I trust implicitly is to destroy the diary immediately upon my death. Some things should just not be visited upon future generations.
Other papers are harder to explain – not why I ever had them but why I ever thought I needed to save them. At the top of my garage was a bag with bumper stickers and posters from Tony Knowles’ first gubernatorial campaign. I still have my personnel file from my three years with the federal government back in the early 70’s. I have certificates of health for my deceased bird. Rabies immunization papers for my deceased dog. I have a complete file of the lots available for sale from the City of Barrow when I bought my lot in 1988. I have a letter from MarkAir to accompany the useless dividend coupons assuring me that they would always be here to service Barrow and its needs. I have warrantees for electronics I no longer possess, attachments for phones long ago discarded. I have autographed pictures from George Burns and Gracie Allan, Red Skelton, and Howard Duff and Ida Lupino. I have Gene Autry’s autograph.
I wish I could say I’d tossed all the junk but I haven’t. Most of it has moved with me for 28 years. I may never use it or look at it but I take comfort in knowing it’s there. Except for those Tony Knowles’ bumper stickers and posters. Those I tossed. Sorry, Governor. But sometimes you just have to be ruthless when packing up to move.