Tuesday, June 7, 2016


Some of you may recall a post I wrote back in the autumn of 2014 detailing my decision to store my journals in my in-law’s loft. The rest of you, take your Omega 3 tablets and have a look at this. Or not; really, there’s no need to remember everything. Which is sort of the point of this post.

The takeaway topic of that previous post was this: although I was willing to physically part with the journals, I was not yet at a point in my life where I felt ready to throw them away. (Well, that and the realization that—as a younger man—I was a bit of a muppet.) Turns out, that day came sooner than I thought; my therapists would be so proud.

A number of factors went into this decision, none of which are relevant, but once arrived at, I could not implement the solution fast enough, and until I did, I lived in fear that they might lie forgotten in my in-law’s loft, only to be uncovered decades from now by some hapless new home-owner who would unwittingly open them, read a few pages and think, “Who was this asshole?”

Happily, it transpired that I recently found myself alone at my in-law’s house and, having previously secured permission to start a bonfire in their backyard, trotted the numerous volumes out of the house and began setting fire to them, one page at a time.

There they go!
Those of you with particularly keen memories are now saying (Don’t deny it, I can hear you), “But you took photos of all those pages, so you’re not really destroying them!” Fair enough, but I don’t count digital images as a permanent copy (or more to the point, one I, or anyone else, is likely to read) and I fully expect they will find themselves on the business end of a DELETE command fairly soon.

Besides, digital copies don’t weigh anything, they don’t take up space and they don’t follow me around from abode to abode and continent to continent, growing year by year like the money boxes shackled to Marley’s ghost.

He ain't heavy, he's my journal.
And so, on a sunny afternoon in suburbia, I fed my life to the flames, occasionally glimpsing, on those pages, memories, long forgotten, that returned to me one last time even as the fire consumed them:

The entry I wrote while sitting in a graveyard on a sombre, November afternoon, with skeletal trees silhouetted against a leaden sky and dead leaves scattered among the tomb stones, which stirred an aching melancholy.

The time my friends and I sat up all night talking, then decided to go to a local beauty spot to watch the sun rise, only to discover we were facing west.

The heat of sunbaked macadam burning the soles of my feet as I walked to the local (only a mile and a half away) swimming hole.

The sudden, shocking chill of the Kinderhook Creek as I jumped from the rope swing into the green water.

The way the sunlight glinted off her hair.

The light in her eyes.

The turn of her head.

These, and many others that did not even get a final perusal, were snuffed out in the inferno, making me wonder if I was killing them, or if—no longer remembered—they were already dead. Whatever the case, one by one they flared, curled to cinders and became irrevocably lost, and their downy ash rose with the smoke, swirling through the air like a blizzard, further and further across the neighborhood, making me wonder how long I could expect to get away with this before someone called the fire brigade.

But no sirens sounded, and no police arrived with a ‘cease and desist’ order and, eventually, as I consigned the final pages to the flames, I felt lighter, and yet more whole. Who I am, what I am, now resides wholly within me. I am now the sum of what I hold in my mind, and not the product of millions of unread words mouldering in an attic. And even as these memories fade, it will be those I hold on to that will make me me.

I left the fire then and returned to the binders. Once heavy and significant they were now merely husks that had, at one time, held my life. Their time was over, their importance erased, their task complete. I threw them in the bin.

And then, for a time, I watched the fire die and turn to embers while, all around me, my memories settled like snow.


  1. I burned many old memories a few years ago, cards, letters, all kinds of things. I no longer had the need - or to be frank the space! - for them. Oh gosh, it was so freeing! I don't keep anything like as much stuff now and if I do, every now and then I go through and have a chuck and burn or shredding session and it is gone. So freeing. Yesterday though the accountant told me to keep everything forever. Yeah right. I told her that after 8 years all paperwork is toast and little does she know that a lot of it is toast before that! Good luck with your chucking!

    1. I was a real pack rat. I saved everything: letters, magazines, college notebooks, the lot. But then I went through a period where I moved seven times in in four years and each time I did a clear out. By the seventh move, I had paired it down considerably. But the volumes of journals still remained.

  2. Wow! I'm having trouble doing that... chucking memories of things long forgotten. I tried to make copies of years of online journals where I wrote daily... got about 3 years printed in one box and gave up. But when read, they do bring back things you hadn't thought of in years - good memories (not all, but most). But besides your kids (and the grandkids that are old enough to remember you), your thoughts are the only things that show you were here. Does that sound dumb? I guess it does in some ways as no one would probably ever read them...

    1. I have a plan, mentioned above, to write up my memories of childhood and give them to my grandchildren. These will be my adult view of what happened at the time, but at least they'll have something, and can read of a time when you had to get up to change the channel on the TV and play cards with a real deck of cards because video card games were still 20 years in the future. They probably will think I'm making it all up. ;)