After several years of trying, I still haven't figured out how to deal with all the inherited items for which I have become an unwilling custodian. I sold all the things that were meaningless, and a couple of things I wish I'd kept.. And there are still a few more items that have more dollar value than meaning value, which I could sell if I just would. Not sure what stops me, but it seems to keep getting put off.
But the saleables aren't the real problem. It's the commemorations I don't know what to do with. Very old photographs of people I never knew? We're talking tintypes from the nineteenth century, Edwardian portraits in elaborate frames. Pictures of the interior of a hardware store owned by someone in my family, dated 1917. And that's not even to touch upon the dozens of albums and hundreds of loose photos that document the activities of my relatives throughout the twentieth century.
I know what you're going to say: Scan them and shred them! Great in theory, but some sense of honoring the past seems to stop me. There's just something so poignant about those physical objects, left behind by the dead to represent their lives.
The picture above shows someone's boudoir, circa 1900. I don't know whose--but I still have the writing desk shown against the back wall. It's a very unusual design, and one dealer has told me that it was sold by mail order in the late 1890s, with the description "Fancy French Desk." Who sat there to write, and what did they write about? This picture is a mystery, capturing one moment in a time I cannot even imagine, much less understand.
The picture below shows the desk today, topped with some other flotsam from the sea of objects. The desk is in almost perfect condition, its oak unblemished and its mirror still perfectly silvered. What should happen to it next?
I can probably find someone to buy this lovely curiosity--but who will be the keeper of its history?