I’ve started to re-arrange things, cleaning out the office by bringing stuff home — family photos and tchotchke –you know, those little trinkets you accumulate, given as gifts that hold memory, so they have sentimental value, but wouldn’t be shown on the Antique Road Show or even be sold at a tag sale.
For the first time I’ve actually arranged all my journals in chronological order – there are 41 books, mostly small, hard-bound record books, but a few hefty tomes, too. All of them hold memories – not all the memories are precious, not by a long shot. I began writing on a somewhat regular basis in September of 1973, my second year at Murray Universalist Church in Attleboro.
The temptation to read them prolongs the process. I tell myself to wait until after June, but it’s hard to resist. Most of those books have notes and letters folded between the pages here and there, or ticket stubs from theaters, saved as reminders.
Stored in the box that has held the journals is a large brown envelope given to me by the Reading Cooperative Bank where I got the mortgage when I bought the first house in Tewksbury in the spring of 1962, just before graduating from Salem State College. The house cost $2,500 – I put $100 down (a loan from brother Chet) and the bank provided the $2,400 balance. It was an abandoned summer place that we fixed up, so the little bank book is a reminder that the monthly mortgage payment was $38, which included $7 for property tax and $1 for membership in the coop, since it was a cooperative bank.
The explanation on the envelope containing the deed and payment book explains the idea behind a cooperative bank: “In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.” It sounds quaint, now, and sadly out of date.
A committee came to look at the house before approving the mortgage. After their visit, the branch manager informed me that they had turned it down – the place needed a lot of work. So I went to the bank and met with the manager and told him what I planned to do with the house, and that I would be doing the work myself. I’ll never forget that conversation. He listened, sympathetically, and at one point pushed his chair back from the desk, looked at me and said, “I’ll tell you what – we’re going to lend the money to you…it’s not about the house.” He was living out the definition, above. Two years later we had another meeting – this time to close the loan when I sold the house for $10.000. He looked at me with a smile and said, “I knew you’d do it.”
You see what I mean about the temptation to read stuff while re-arranging it in preparation for the big move, which comes ever so closer with each passing Sunday.
I’m faced with the difficult task of sorting the hundreds of books on my shelves in the office and at home into a few piles: those I will keep, those which I’ll select for the church library, those which I’ll offer to some folks who I think would appreciate them, and those which I’ll put out for anyone who may find use for them. I’ll let you know when I’m ready to make them available. Meanwhile, it’s on to the final countdown.
I hope you’re well.