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Jack Zaleski, Published April 21 2012

Zaleski: Just things, you say? Not really …

Baby boomers of my vintage are preparing for change. My wife and I, having reached the age when turning the page is necessary and welcome, began the process a few years ago of going through the stuff we’ve accumulated over more than 40 years together. There’s a lot, and every item is a story, a memory, a connection to times gone by.

Last year, we culled our book collection, boxing up several hundred volumes and handing them off to a used-book store. It was doubly painful: physically because of hefting the boxes; emotionally because tossing the books was parting with old friends. When I see the gaps in our once-stuffed-to-the-ceiling shelves, I almost feel the spirits of the sacrificed books that lived there for decades.

So, what to do with all the other things? What to trash? What to save? What to donate to a charity? What to pass on to inheritors? Do they care about these things as much as I do?

For example:

And so it goes. Every long-neglected shelf in the storage room hides treasures and memories. Every opened box reveals links to the past: history written in the dust; fleeting and faded recollections of good and bad times, of family members long gone, of times that seemed simpler, but probably were not.

So, all you aging boomers: How do we sift through the things that helped define our lives? Mere objects, you say? Just things, after all. True enough. But the stories and history, the love and the pain, the triumphs and losses embodied in the “things” make it hard to let go.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.

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