Kept For Posterity · 27 February 2010

My wife, the Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi, says that I am a packrat. She is right, of course. I have old books, old movies, old clothes. Most of the things are not collectibles. I might even be able to live without most of the old things I have (except maybe the clothes, which I still wear). But most of the things that I cannot bring myself to throw away have some significant or sentimental value.

Most of those significant things are writings of some kind. I have old letters from friends and I even have notebooks of things I have written. I am not sure what most of the writing is from or why I have kept it, except that it is writing. The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi says that even if I become a famous writer in my time, that stuff will still probably not be worth anything. To collectors or anybody else. She is probably right, but I keep it anyway. Someday, I might even go through it all and see what I need to keep and what I need to throw away. But do not quote me on that.

I find myself thinking the same thing with my email. I have hundreds of emails that I have kept for no good reason except that they are correspondence from family and friends. I really should go through and delete some, but they seem to be a part of my history. So deleting them would be like deleting part of me.

Even though there are few emails that I really need to keep, there is at least one that I do not plan on deleting. Ever. It came from Thing 2 who wants to get email from people. His email message said:

Speak to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Are you alive?!?!?!?!? Hello! Any body home? Hellooooooo?

He sent it to his grandparents, his mother, and me. He even sent it to some of his friends who must not check their email very often. His message is really a testament to innocence. After all, (I told him in my reply) one day he would love to check his email and find nothing new. But so far he has not yet had the taste of electronic spam.

Even though she is not a packrat, my wife has items that she holds onto also. One of those items is an electronic message that she cannot delete. It has been on our answering machine for almost a year now. As a matter of fact, it was the reason for this whole column. (“You need to write about the message on the answering machine.”)

Thing 3 was in second grade at the time and had gotten into trouble. So much trouble that he had to call home and talk to a parent. Fortunately, nobody was home and he had to leave a message, otherwise, the call would just be a memory. As it is, we probably get to hear the message once a month. Thing 3 said that he was in trouble for saying to somebody that he “sucked boobies.” While the message itself is entertaining now that the trouble and turmoil of the moment has passed, the anxiety and humility expressed in Thing 3’s low, almost mumbling, voice are priceless. Getting in trouble enough to call one’s parents is a terrible thing. And when the offense is that of offending somebody else, there is no excuse. But the words and the voice with which they are spoken make me smile every time I hear the message.

I know that there are things I need to throw away. Not everything is significant or sentimental no matter how much I insist that it is. Still, I am glad that the Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi and I do agree that at least some messages are meant to be kept forever. Even if they are kept for posterity in a piece of my writing, in an email, and on a message machine. (I am sure that fifty years from now, we will still be listening to a voice mail from a contrite second grader.)

Yes, some things must be kept forever. Packrat or not.

© 2010 Michael T. Miyoshi

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