November 16, 2021

Voices of Memory 

   A friend texted me the other day to tell me my voicemail was full. The news baffled me. Was I missing calls?

   Then I clicked in. 

   I’d forgotten about the sweet voicemail I saved from 2012 from my husband, who was away visiting college friends in Massachusetts. 

   Or the gracious, poetic thank-you voicemail from a guy about whom I’d written a Times piece. Or the happy birthday message from a dear old friend. Or the message from my youngest son telling me he’d secured a ride home from school to save me from having to pick him up, because he knew I wanted to be somewhere else at that moment. Or the one from my daughter, on her way home from work in Washington, D.C., taking a second to say “I love you.” Or my youngest brother, who, sitting on the shores of a lake in upstate New York, grew nostalgic for our childhood. 

   I follow @goodnews_movement on Instagram. Today a post told the story of a father who called his daughter in a panic after he deleted a voicemail from her that he listened to regularly. The voicemail said, “I just wanted to say I love you.” He asked her to call him back immediately to leave a new one. 

       I have had numerous conversations during the past months with folks who are maniacally clearing out their houses to Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, and secondhand shops. In perfectly respectable neighborhoods, I’m seeing more furniture than ever sitting on the stretch of lawn between the street and the sidewalk, ‘free’ signs taped to their bodies. We are throwing away letters and photos. We are tossing articles written 30 years ago. We are disposing of recipes we promised we’d make and never did. 

   We are excising parts of our past, to help us live in the present. 

   But what to take, and what to keep? 

   I have no wisdom to impart. But when I can hear, at the tap of a fingertip, the voices of my loved ones, I know one small answer to that question. 

   My voicemail, and my heart, are full. 

–       Jane

   For a writing prompt this week, think of an object – a gift, a card, a letter, a piece of clothing – that carries – or did carry – sentimental value. Where is it now? Is it dust in the dump? Are you keeping it, or are you doing a Marie Kondo and thanking it for its service? Think about your object. Write about it. Share your story with someone, and if you’d like, share it with me.