Sunday, August 21, 2005


For the first time since June, I spent a weekend in Cleveland. It was a welcomed relief from so many consecutive weekends on the road, although it came about as much by necessity as by choice. I will leave Cleveland in four weeks, most likely never to live here again. In just three weeks, I will move all but the bare essentials of my apartment to Maureen's mother's house in Wisconsin. There are two more weekends before that trip, and I won't be in Cleveland for them, either. I needed a weekend to start packing.

After purging or packing as much clothing, and packing as many plates, glasses and appliances, as is possible three weeks before the move, I turned today toward smaller tasks. One of these was my desk, that great wooden pit where so much of my life gets filed away, often never to be seen again until the next move. Among the folders of old bills, pay stubs and instructions for electronics long ago sold or given away, were scattered memories of my past life. I always get a little nostalgic when I come across the old report cards, high school pictures and letters that for some reason or another I just haven't been able to throw away.

Why is it so hard to part with the note from Grandma telling about her trip to the grocery store, the peaches she just canned, and Grandpa's upcoming doctor's appointment? There's no information of any historical value worth saving there. And yet there is, for in that letter is a snapshot of a life, and the snapshot is more poignant because it is a self-portrait, both depicting and made by a person who is very important to me.

In another folder I found cards, letters and postcards from Maureen. Of course I would save these. Nearby, I also found a handmade Valentine card from a high school crush who I felt at one time was the only possible hope for all my romantic desires. Beside it was the letter her best friend had sent me, shortly after I had told my crush how I felt about her. "Oh Scott, I just want to be your friend," is how she had responded. And she has been. She still is, although it's been much too long since I've seen her. But on that October day of nearly eight years ago, those words were enough to smash the hopes and dreams of a college freshman trying to find his way in a big, new, intimdating world. Her best friend, who was also a good friend of mine, understood my plight, and was caring enough to send me a letter after she found out, commiserating.

"Why am still holding on to these?" I wondered, and added them to the recycling heap.

I found more letters a few folders later, although these were from the Center for Railroad Photography and Art ( Most were form letters and were duelly added to the recycling heap, but two that began "Dear Mr. Lothes" caught my eye. One congratulated me for winning third place in their 2005 Creative Photography Award. The other expressed their regrets that my entry was not selected among the winners of the 2004 Award. It seemed like an easy enough choice: keep the winner and toss the loser. But something made my hand waver above the ever-growing mound of papers for the recycling bin.

I pulled back the letter of regrets, and returned it to the file right beside the congratulatory note. To live is to fail, at least some days. One truth that I believe very strongly is that every event from our past lives shapes us into the people we become. If I am to accept the person that I am today, I must accept my failures right beside my triumphs. To save only the success and happiness in my own folder of memories would be taking an inaccurate snapshot, the kind of contrived self-portrait that would never win a photography contest. I began sifting through the recycle pile for that Valentine from my old crush, and that letter her best friend had sent me.

1 comment:

pkjazz said...


I just found your blog a couple of days ago and am extremely intrigued by the way in which you look at life. Although I have only read a couple of your entries so far, they have inspired me although I do not know you.

With that said, I'd like to thank you for sharing your thoughts with the world. Truly, one can never really know who their words will impact.

Thanks again!