Last weekend I spent a pleasant couple of hours sorting through a box which I have moved many times over the last twenty years but never unpacked.

It was full of old correspondence from my late teens into my late twenties.

Birthday cards, letters, invitations to weddings, invitations to birthdays, invitations to christenings, postcards from friends and family, blank valentine cards from my long term mystery admirer (my dad) that had arrived every year without fail, short notes from my Grandpa and assorted elderly relatives who have long since passed away.

As I sorted through it, I chuckled at the various assortment of couplings that had occurred within my friendship group that I could track through the shared signatures at the bottom of cards, but that ended with wedding invitations that I dug up deeper in the box.

I got all teary at the letters from my baby sister. I moved out of home when she was 8 and I was 18 and her letters are the sweetest things, detailing the minutiae of her life as well as big announcements about what was going on at school and with other siblings.

The postcards from my friends and family travelling the world. The different perceptions of the same cities. The different priorities when they travelled. Their different adventures and loves scrawled in cramped script with my various addresses squeezed into a square and partially covered with a stamp. A long letter from a friend that died unexpectedly a couple of years ago poignantly recalled his particular style of storytelling and brought him fleetingly alive again. 

There were other clues to the end of the last century and the beginning of this one. The different styles of wedding invites over the years, the more sophisticated printing styles for the 21sts. The letters that people enclosed in their annual Christmas cards summarising the last 12 months for you – sometimes accurately and sometimes not.

The long letters from friends living and working abroad. Sorry letters. Love letters. Cards made out to me and boyfriends who always seemed like the one. Some postcards written by me to others and returned to me so that I ‘could keep the memory’ which I always thought strange since I kept travel journals.

There are newspaper clippings featuring me or people I know. Old departmental newsletters. Memes from the olden day of faxes. Newspaper or magazine articles that clearly resonated at the time but for which I have no memory now of why. Appointment letters for jobs and other positions. Christmas and birthday cards from people whose names no longer spark any recognition. Congratulations cards. Bon Voyage cards.

The departmental pass I had lost so never handed back in. Some IOUs. Some photographs of babies who are now older than the parents that took the original photograph. Plane tickets. Movie tickets. Itineraries. A badge from the US Air-Force. Part of a love letter written to me by somebody now dead. Four cloth badges featuring ‘Condoman’ from some long forgotten safe sex campaign.

Some beautiful cards and letters from people that cared for me and saw my strengths long before I ever learned to appreciate them.  All carried from city to city, from house to house. 

image source: my heritage blog

It is not just me that is still hugely interested in the lives of our families and friends. We still want to know what is going on, stay connected.  We use email, social media, chat forums, share photos digitally. We are just doing it differently. Invitations are sent via email, websites are set up for weddings and we have family WhatsApp groups to keep people connected since they no longer live around the corner and can pop by for Sunday night dinner.

There are positive and negatives to both. I enjoyed sifting through the box, marvelling at what version of me thought keeping a Christmas card from my then chiropractor a good idea. I recycled a bunch of the cards – from people I didn’t recall, and even from people I did but who are no longer part of my life and whose words no longer hold the meaning they did. 

But I enjoy the immediacy of communication these days and I love a daily remember of what I was doing this time a year ago, six years ago, ten years ago. I love seeing my girls’ faces on the couch beside me as we look at younger versions of themselves, or recall funny things they said and I had shared. I have saved every email from the guy who turned out to be the one and I have over 29,000 photos on my phone alone which allows me to be nostalgic without sneezing through a dusty box.

I like scrolling through photos of my friends and families lives – the good, the bad, the ugly and the occasionally questionable. I love seeing the faces of babies turn into toddlers turn into children even though they all live on the other side of the world. I love hearing about people’s holidays or being able to send support and love when the world is an arse.  I love the immediacy of the news and being able to share or save or the output of my accomplished and clever friends.

Basically, I like my tribe and staying connected to all the wonderful people in it.  Both old and new.

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