Filing the Past

I’ve been opening and rearranging the contents of the boxes that my Esteemed Brother sent up from Sebastopol. The easiest material to organize is my correspondence. I’ve probably got 98% of all the cards and letters I’ve ever received. That is, paper cards and letters. My electronic correspondence has only sporadically been archived. The postal service carried stuff has been stuffed into various drawers and boxes and filing cabinets. With EB sending up all my left-behinds I should have everything in one place.

I probably wouldn’t be attempting this organization right now if I hadn’t put a system in place before I left California. Sometime back I started separating letters from envelopes, dating them and then filing them under the names of their senders in a little two drawer filing cabinet. One of the first boxes I opened a few days ago contained the majority of those files and the next box I opened contained the rest. So I emptied out a couple of cardboard filing boxes, arranged the files alphabetically and set to work.

I pull the card or letter from its envelope. If undated I try to suss out the probable mailing date from the postmark on the envelope. Then I either put the letter in its appropriate file, or, if I haven’t got one for that writer yet, I create a new file. Once I’m done with the Sebastopol boxes I’ll be going through the boxes of correspondence I’ve got from the last decade here.

My mom and dad left me enough letters that I could probably write short biographies of them. No surprise there. They were both prolific writers. My mom wrote regularly. My dad less frequently but he always responded to any letters I sent him. What I never cease to be surprised and touched by are the number of letters I’ve gotten from other people, especially people that I don’t remember having communicated much with. It probably helped that I was a prolific letterwriter myself. I’d dash off letters on scrap paper during breaks at the various jobs I had.

These days I barely manage to croak out two lines in reply to an email I’ve gotten. Gah. That’s depressing.