The fire burned hot as I tossed another handful of handwriting onto the pile.  Large black flakes of ash rose and drifted away. Two full shoeboxes of memories that only weighed me down were slowly disappearing forever. The already warm summer night combined with the flames made my eyes burn and water.

Or were they tears…

Rewind to that morning as I unloaded everything I’d been storing for the last ten years in a cedar chest tucked away in a place a rarely visit. This “hope chest” was never filled with hope, but weighed down by the past. Realizing that I’d held on to every card and letter I’d received as well as notes passed between friends throughout high school was overwhelming.

I knew it was time to delete the things I no longer want to carry with me. I have no problem getting rid of “stuff”. I lead a happily minimalist life with my husband. I no longer believe that I’m required by some strange law to keep every sentimental item ever given to me.

I needed to go through these letters and cards to pick out the few I’d like to keep a while longer before tossing the whole lot.

Initially I thought I’d do a quick dig through the large shoebox of letters. I was certain it would be a quick and easy job with a few laughs at my younger self thrown in.

What I hadn’t counted on was my heart.

One name in particular kept showing up over and over and over and had me in tears before I knew what was happening. A stack began to grow. A paper monument to a friendship now lost. Still a fresh wound.  When Rob saw what was happening he gently stopped me. Later he would pre sort these out so that I could finish with less emotional distress.

I’m not totally heartless…I did save some very important pieces of paper. Love letters from Rob when we were first dating are not going anywhere. A handful of letters and cards written to me by my family also were too precious to burn.

But the rest entered the flames without regret. I don’t need boxes of notes to remind me how clever my high school friends were. I don’t need letters written to me by people I haven’t seen in twenty years.  I don’t need birthday or graduation cards from the 90’s.

I certainly don’t need letters spanning nineteen years that had become painful to look at. I don’t need anything to remind me of a treasure I will always hold so close to my heart. Those memories aren’t going anywhere even when the physical reminders are gone.

As the flames ate away at the last scraps, I wasn’t sad anymore. I hold all of it in my heart. The memories, sweet and bittersweet, aren’t going anywhere.