Who stays in? Who’s left out? And what painful twinges will bite me when I read some of these names?
These are the questions facing me as I slip a new address book out of its clear cellophane envelope and set it on the desk beside the old, battered address book.
The new address book sports a pristine white cover with large, evenly-space gold dots. It opens flat for easy use. It is larger than the shabby old address book with its worn corners, covers bulging from the scraps of paper tucked between its pages, messy with crossed-out entries and new information glued over the old.
The new address book is appealing, in part, because its holds no entries. Each page waits to be filled in. Like January 1, it’s all new. Anything is possible and there are no mistakes and no regrets. This address book, like anything else new and shiny, promises a fresh start to a small section of my life. I am lured by this golden mirage, and allow myself to fall into the myth of consumerism: The right purchase can save me!
Of course the new address book is not really a pill for what ails me. I am way behind in my correspondence (procrastination? distraction?) and, about those names and addresses that won’t be transferred, I am sad. But I will have to face the names and addressed in the old address book to fill in the blanks in the new one, even if this is a task fraught with emotion. Each name sparks a response, however fleeting.
There are entries that won’t be transferred because the names that head them have gone home, passed on beyond the reach of even the United States Post Office, as efficient as its mail delivery system is.
My brother recently assumed membership in this group and I miss writing to him, which I did two or three times a month. He never wrote back. In my letters, I wrote about whatever held my interest at the time. Only beside his bed in the hospice wing of the hospital, where he lay comatose, did I learn that he not only read my letters, he also sometimes read them aloud to others. I hoped to brighten up his day with my letters. I guess I did.
No, my brother no longer needs space in my address book. Nor does my baby sister. She is angry at me for undoubtedly appears to her more than sufficient grounds. She moved across the country and sent no forwarding address. I can’t blame her. It’s not her fault. But I miss her wit and sparkling stories. Will I ever see her or my nephew again? Of all the family traits we would carry through the generations, never-speaking-to-you-again is one I had hoped would drop from our DNA. (Sigh.)
Other old entries memorialize several valiant crusaders for the welfare of mankind. These friends, too, have passed on. If they have found an afterlife, I hope it provides a comforting perspective on the troubles of civilization so they can put down their banners and petitions and put up their feet. They did their best and deserve some rest.
What to do with those addresses of people I haven’t heard from in years? This man was widowed and took up a new life in Seattle. It seems unlikely he’d still be living in the same apartment. I write his name in ink and his address in pencil. Here are good friends from college. We were witnesses at their marriage. Though they are still together and still overseas, this address surely isn’t still current. Again: name in ink, address in pencil.
I work my way through the alphabetized entries, smiling at some names and (a couple times) cringing at other names. At the end of the old book, I toss its pages into recycling. All that remains is a pile of loose notes and clipping that were tucked between its pages. What is all this stuff, anyway?
Mostly, is it the current addresses of inmates whose “housing assignments” may change at any time at the whim of the state. And there are lists of internet pass words. What to do with these?
And here is where I make the happy discovery of a folder attached to the back cover of my spanking new purchase — a perfect place to tuck these loose papers. In this one minuscule way, my new address book delivers on that implied promise of a Better Life through Consumerism.
But wait! Oh no! This new book is too large to fit in the drawer where I kept the old one.
Now I have to clean the drawer out. Once again, I am ensnared by materialism.