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January 31, 2016

Today I found myself fiddling around, rooting in my drawers in search of a credit card I need. A card that I haven’t used in years. Of course, there is a good chance it is out-of-date, but nevertheless, I wanted to find it. Something strange happened – I found myself being ambushed by memories, memories that had been dormant for quite some time. It seems, like a predator, the memories had been stalking me, hiding behind thoughts, objects, the clutter of everyday things. In my desk I found two things, an old Valentine’s card and key fob. As objects, a piece of folded cardboard and a piece of plastic with a metal ring inserted into it, has little artistic or emotional worth. However, it is clear to me that experience and memories cling to such things. When I came across them, I didn’t just have a vague nostalgic ache, I was immediately vividly transported to the time and place, to the moment. I found it so overwhelming I sat down and sobbed.

The past is another country, but memory is a passport. We do not just have a vague remembrance of love, companionship, support and kindness, such intimate and beautiful wonders lurk, they cling like magical dust like a circuit that we complete when we touch them. I wasn’t prepared, I thought a key fob was just that, and a card was just a card, but clearly not.

So why do we keep reminders, signposts to the past? Why do we sentimentalise days that are gone, people who are no longer with us, people who no longer love us with a searing passion and gentle need? Partly it is simply nostalgia, our need to horde, to collect. But it is more than that, it is a kind of magic, a kind of portal to a moment, a reminder of who we were and who we are becoming. Although sad, emotional, distressing and ultimately lonely one may feel after encountering such things, they serve to tell us that love, feelings, emotion, never dies, it lingers and transmutes into something kind, something invisible and as caressing as a summer breeze.

I’m not going to throw the card away, or the key fob. They were made and given with a purpose; the Braille in the card is my definition a sacred thing, a nudge to remind me that I meant a lot to someone. The key fob was made with intention and regard, a gift that was given and received with pleasure and joy.

Old things – cards, photos, mementos are more than the sum of their parts, they are tiny fragments of the past, little glimpses of yesterday that help form our tomorrow. There’s no doubt that in years to come I’ll encounter the same card and key fob – maybe some of the energy would have worn off, evaporated into the landscape of forever. Or maybe it will be equally strong, a magnetic impulse that will once again make me cry. Only time will tell.

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