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Scott Parson, dabbler in typestries and fabulations

Recycling Personal History

I think it’s time to give up on the Smithsonian Institution ever sending researchers to collect all of the artifacts I’ve been collecting over the years. I thought by now they’d be keen to get hold of everything for their permanent exhibit, “Scott Parson: His Life and Times.”

Really. I’ve waited and waited, carefully preserving all manner of exhibit-worthy material experienced archivists could turn into enchanting displays that marked the key periods of my life.

Boxes and boxes and bags and bags and stacks and stacks. All ready to go. If they’d shown the slightest interest.

Storage Unit Contents

But they didn’t. That’s hard for me to understand. It’s such a comprehensive collection, too. All manner of hand-written pages, notes to myself, which I can’t read, but they must have been important because I wrote them down, which is why I need highly skilled and dedicated chroniclers to decipher them.

There are all those doodles made in the midst of life crises which reveal my multi-layered personality, and how I faced the difficulties in my life with a mixture of creativity, therapeutic self-distraction, and industrial strength inattention. There are movie tickets, individually wrapped tooth picks, peppermints still in their plastic, match books, stained paper placemats from eateries I visited once fully intending to revisit. But never did. There are tee-shirts that reflect my never-changing fashion sense. There are ID cards from lapsed gym memberships, affinity and discount cards from all the book, grocery, department, drug, and VHS video rental stores at which I made occasional purchases. My whole psychological landscape could be laid wide open if someone took the time with stuff like that.

DIY Cannon

Do-it-yourself cannon when a pop-gun just won't suffice.Cannon

There are books, notes from theatre classes, and a well-stocked make-up kit from my thinks-he-can-act period.

There are art texts, drawing equipment and empty sketch books from my thinks-he-can-draw period.

There are parenting magazines and workbooks from my thinks-he-can-raise-kids period.

It’s all there, waiting for some notable historian to dive head first into this trove of treasures to sort, shape, and organize it all into the story of me.

But it’s obvious that’s not going to happen. I’m actually good with that. Now.

Took me a bit to get to that point. I love history and I resonate with the cry of the professional biographers who lament the lost artifacts that would have done so much to explain their subject’s life and thought.

So I started early, holding onto all manner of goods that would be of interest to my future biographer. Like, for example all the swimming ribbons, medals, and news items from my extended thinks-he’s-an-athlete period in high school. Those would make a pretty good chapter. Lots of action.

I figured not only would the Smithsonian have the resources to curate a really well designed exhibit, they’d also have the room to keep all the stuff.

Books in the Storage Unit

Books for researching the magnum opus still to be written

Which means that I’m looking at all the piles stacked up that need to be stored, and I’m calculating the cost per square foot, which has me thinking, really thinking — what a lot of junk! I went through boxes and boxes, and I realized most everything fell into one of two categories: things I couldn’t for the life of me remember where or why or how I acquired them and things I hadn’t taken the time to explain to the kids how meaningful they are and how they should reverence them like I do, so they can get really excited with they speak on camera for the documentary, “Scott Parson – the Life, the Legend, the Leftovers.” The camera loves that kind of animation, especially when you’re a blood relative to the object of veneration.

Swimming RibbonsSwimming Ribbons

Swimming Medals

Tangible tokens to validate a transitory physical prowess

So, that’s all out the window. I get that. What’s painfully obvious is that when our personal mementos need to be monetized in terms of the dollars needed to store them, we’re forced to make some hard decisions. Like, just how important do I think I’m going to be to future generations so that my kids will have to sit still for a string of history lectures from me with lots of visual aids.

The sad part, if there is a sad part, is that much of this stuff would have been entertaining as props to illustrate those stories from our lives. Validation that we’d been there, done that, swiped the tchotchke. I should have been doing it while all of the brain cells dedicated to recollection are still trustworthy.

But they’ll be gone. And perhaps so will the stories. Seems like our lives are too full, our days are too short, and our memories too faulty to derive much benefit or pleasure from the family stories.

I’d encountered the principle articulated by Mary Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, which states, “First, put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it.

Toy Knight

Last remaining knight of the set Dad sent from Germany

John Wayne Thimble

The John Wayne obsession

Second, once only your most joy-giving belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible, and easy to grab and then put back.” Figuring out what gave me joy was easy. All of it did – as long as there was a museum somewhere ready to take it off my hands for “Scott Parson, Creative Genius” as a permanent display, maybe with a self-guided audio tour narrated by James Earl Jones.

Realizing that not only was it highly unlikely such an exhibit would be created while I was alive to enjoy it, but that it was highly unlikely such an exhibit would be created ever, made it easy to feel the complete and total lack of joy for all of those objects I’d been holding onto.

It’s good to make the memories, but it was time for me to let go of the talismans that I hoped would conjure up those days and feelings as I’d once experienced them. Better to make more memories and bask in that fresh feeling instead.

All right. I’ve made myself melancholy.

Like Roy Scheider says in Jaws, ‘you’re gonna need a bigger trash bag’.

Cheap Carnival Ring

6th grade: ready to go steady

Text (c) Scott Parson

Images: Scott Parson

Image on index page: Sara Cottle on Unsplash