loren Eric Swanson: Cleaning out the Garage and Tomb Raiders

Friday, June 29, 2007

Cleaning out the Garage and Tomb Raiders

Liz and I are in California for a few days helping my folks celebrate their 60th anniversary. By brother and his wife from Brisbane, Australia are here are my two sisters. We all agreed our first task would be to clean out the garage, which we started on yesterday. I was hoping to find my safe, in which I had stored up my treasures, but which has been sealed for 35 years. I was anticipating the old silver dollars from the 1800s and carefully wrapped uncirculated Kennedy Half Dollars from the 60s, so one can imagine my excitement when I found my safe. With the anticipation of Geraldo opening the safe of the Titanic, I worked the old combination (6-13) but because I had blown open the safe with fire crackers so many times when I was in Junior High School, I eventually had to pry the door open. What did I find? Two uncashed checks from 1963 from two of my customers on my paper route in 7th grade, a $5 IOU from my dad dated from 1963, several old report cards from 8th grade showing several Ds and Cs, and a card from the 1950s or early 60s from the TV show Paladin, an invition to Neal's birthday party, a knife with a compass on the handle, a 4th place ribbon, soap and a glass cover from a Best Western Hotel we stayed in in 1961, and a few other trinkets. But where were the silver dollars? Where were the Kennedy Halfs? Tomb raiders I suspect. The took the treasure. But the real treasure was to follow.
We found my dad's navy uniform and Pea Jacket from WWII. We found a cashe of Al Jolson records, along with a collection of albums from the 50s and 60s. We found a fully functional liesure suit, a Mrs Beasley Doll and old Raggedy Anne doll. We found monogramed wine glasses from my tea-totling great aunt who was born in the 1800s. We found my mom's "Wink" coat (fake mink) that she wore in the 1950s. We found a blanket that my grandmother made for my father. Most of this stuff will go to the dump but what of the treasure? The real treasure was spending the afternoon with my family, going through a time capsule of shared memories, many which evoked associated stories. Today we'll continue the process as we help Mom and Dad downsize.
One thing that did surprise me is the stuff my folks kept. One ususually keeps things that they assume will be valuable in the future. Sure they misjudged the liesure suit but they did keep every letter and card that we kids or grandkids ever sent them. With the use of email, this is probably the last generation to cherish the written note. And they did cherish them.
Mom and Dad are now 81. So far we have not found much that others would consider valuable but the fact that they lived and have loved in the way they have that their little home in Stockton, where they have lived for the past 44 years continues to serve as a magnet that draws us "home." Is there anything more valuable than that? Well, its time to go clean out more stuff.


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