BEUSCHEL: Hard to throw away piles of smiles

As the school lockers are emptied and students’ artwork comes down out of the hallways, the annual ritual of ending the school year begins. The teachers and staff in the building start the pitching process, sorting out what will not be needed for the next school year.
Jun 20, 2013


With the atmosphere of spring cleaning in the building, I too decided to dig in and weed out my office. Given my difficulty at staying on task, I began working on my files, my book, toy shelves and desk drawers, and shredding in a rotating fashion.

I got going at a fairly good clip and could see the garbage can and shredding bag filling right up. I even walked some larger items out to the Dumpster. A drawer full of photos and thank-you notes were dispensed of rather slowly as I took time to reread the notes and savor the memories they brought forth. 

The photos I put in a shoe box and took them down to the teachers’ mail room for anyone who dared to look at them. Goodness, it’s scary sometimes to see pictures of yourself from years ago.

My office toy shelves are a conglomeration of my own children’s toys and garage sale finds. At one point, I was going through my basket of puppets and there in the middle of the pile was a blue nylon cape with a drawstring neck that I had machine-made for my son. I held it and walked to the garbage can, ready to put it in, and just could not bring myself to get rid of it. So, I stuffed it into the bottom of my book bag and began to recollect it’s history.

As I looked at this plaything from my son’s childhood, I remembered that I made it out of the fabric from the lining of a sport coat I was making for my husband. It looked just the right size for a 5-year-old to pretend-play with. The continuous string around the cape’s neck looked pretty dangerous, not to mention the fact that the cape was probably used in an effort to become a super hero. 

So now it’s a week later and the cape is still in my book bag. I think it’s going to join a small pile on another book shelf at home that has a few of my son’s and my daughter’s school papers, report cards and artwork. This pile over time has been greatly reduced from the previous mound of saved things. Try as I may, I just can’t get rid of it all.

At home, I have worked in earnest to reduce the amount of photos I have stashed on and around my scrapbooking table. It is a slow process since each pictured memory slows me down and I dwell on that time in my family’s life.

I have tried to sort and label them, but for what purpose? I have made myself scrapbooks, trying to capture the significant moments of children’s and grandchildren’s lives. I don’t know if these scrapbooks or envelopes of photos will be as enjoyable to anyone else as they are to me.

As I attempted to clean up my scrapbooking table, I drifted into another area and found a box of old letters. That was really slow going! 

As I read each one, I felt like I was stepping back in time and hearing the voices of family and friends. 

Slowly, I worked my way through this box of memories. One of the treasures I decided to hold on to was a letter from my maternal grandfather, who traveled back to Germany after my grandmother died. He went back with his brother and his wife, and visited their hometown. I recognized his handwriting right away when I looked at the envelope, as it is a very unique scrolling cursive style he was taught as a child in Germany and was known by when he hand-decorated the cakes in his bake shop. 

I also have saved letters from his sister and his second wife, my step-grandmother.

My saved bundle also includes some letters from my brother who always added drawings to his letters and envelopes. They always make me smile. There’s a sense of happiness that comes with reading these letters again and again. 

I don’t think I’m a candidate for a hoarding intervention, but I sure can see how things can add up without regularly getting into a pitching period. It seems to be the memories that I’m trying to hold on to. 

The older I get, the more I seem to have forgotten about events in my life. The little bits and pieces of family history that I have gathered in pictures and mementos from my grandparents, parents and children enhance my ability to relive and enjoy these life experiences over and over again.

Now, back to the piles and smiles.

— By Janice Beuschel, Tribune community columnist



I thought I might get something useful, maybe just a smile, from your article; it didn't happen. I understand "your" need to share this...but wish you hadn't. I read the whole thing and I can't get that time back. I'm cleaning up things now and won't have trouble throwing your article away.


Ouch! Little harsh don't ya think ru;-/.

Cheer up, they changed the "how to fill up a cruise" photo for you on some pages!


Thanks Wing, I notice some itty-bitty green too...variety is...


Sorry Janice, I had mental meltdown due to some aggravation at work and ultimately you took the hit. I'll try to be more thoughtful and considerate; you too ok?


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