The other day the Crankee Yankee and I were shifting boxes around upstairs; long story short, he is renovating the second story of our house. That space was originally divided into two small-ish bedrooms with a half bath between them. His plans are to upgrade the bathroom to include a shower stall, new toilet, etc., and make one side a guest bedroom and the other side a combination storage and hobby area. So while all this has been going on, we’ve used it for storage of things such as seasonal clothes, books, paperwork, etc.
I wanted to locate two scrapbooks; one was a small one that Dad put together for me when I was a senior in high school; I played Anna in “The King and I,” and Dad took photos from several scenes during dress rehearsal. He spent nearly the entire night developing the prints and putting the scrapbook together to present to me on opening night. That scrapbook did and does mean a lot to me.
The other scrapbook was a compilation of trips that Mom and I took over the years. It also had several old photos of some of our old 4th of July get-togethers, featuring pictures of some dear relatives and friends long gone. There are also many pictures of my parents dancing, wearing their finery and looking as if they owned the world. Then there are several pictures of the cats we have adopted and loved along the way; gone but still very much alive in our hearts. There is even a photo in there of my ex-husband sitting with the Crankee Yankee, who would later become my current husband.
In going through this last scrapbook, I threw out a lot of pictures that have ceased to mean anything to me. I saved out a few pictures of myself and my fellow instructors when we ran a Tae Kwon Do karate school back in the 80’s, also some of our karate tournament pictures. I ended up keeping the pictures of my first wedding because there are photos in there of my late aunt Dottie, also a few shots of people I want to remember.
I also found several journals I had written all through the years I was married to my ex-husband (nearly 10 years). I looked through them briefly, and decided to burn them all. The reason? I’m not that person anymore—the one who made constant excuses for bad behavior or situations I found myself in during that marriage.
The great thing is that I finally forgave myself for making a very human mistake; I saw clearly the kind of man my first husband was but refused to acknowledge it. He wasn’t a terrible person, just not the right one for me. These days I wish him well, and relegate him to just one more blip on my past radar.
In going through those scrapbooks, I saw the young and vulnerable me, too. I also noticed how pretty I was as well. Isn’t it strange how we never seem to give ourselves credit for much of anything until some years pass by? These days I can still see my young self in the mirror from time to time, and even age and all it brings doesn’t dim who I am. Let’s face it–young people are generally beautiful and graceful. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to look wonderful when you are young. But youth and looks will only get you so far; the rest is up to what you have inside.
It’s strange and amazing–in aging it’s as though we somehow become lit from within, and that light softens most obvious signs of aging. The things we have learned along the way, like kindness, love, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, understanding, joy and happiness in the moment; these are the things that illuminate us as well as teach us.
These late-blooming gifts come to us at exactly the right time. Funny how that works, isn’t it?