My name is Kay and I’m a hoarder.

There, I said it.

I’m not the kind of hoarder that keeps so much stuff piled up that you need a snow blower and three machetes just to cut a swath through the living room. I have no trouble discarding magazines, clothes and faulty small appliances.

I keep sentimental stuff. Not stuff that would have any meaning to anyone else. Only me. I have journals and diaries and scrapbooks stuffed full of mementos. File folders full of crayon drawings and old report cards. Drawers full of birthday cards and letters.

I have been keeping journals since sixth grade. Back then, we called them “diaries.” Same concept as a journal; you record your thoughts, feelings and activities and threaten anyone with their life if they dared to read it (yeah, I’m looking at YOU, sister Cindy).

I also pasted ticket stubs, top 10 song lists and various other items that seemed important at the time. There is even a piece of straw that I stole from the yard of a boy I had a crush on. (Hey, at least I didn’t steal a lock of his hair!)

Not all of my diary entries are pleasant. I really don’t enjoy reliving the time a boy in my class told me I was “built like a beer bottle,” yet there it is. Forever memorialized in the pages of my youth. I’m STILL getting over that one.

It is interesting to look back and see how I became the person I am today. In my diary from sixth grade, I wrote, “I read my theme to the class. Everyone laughed. It made me feel good.”

Well, I was off and running. Making people laugh was my ticket “in.” Being nine feet tall and weighing six pounds wasn’t doing me any favors. I also have several of the detention notices that I got in high school for “talking” and “unnecessary noise.”

What the teachers saw as class disruption was what I now see was merely on-the-job training. And, come to think of it, the “beer bottle” comment probably ensured I didn’t waste time pursuing a career in modeling.

I come from a long line of sentimental hoarders. I still have things that my mother held on to and HER mother held on to.

Don’t ask me why I feel the need to keep a stack of canceled checks from the 1930s. Mom’s mother felt the need to keep them, my mom felt the need and now I am the Keeper of the Checks. If the IRS comes knocking, I’ll be ready!

I still have my mother’s diary. Her entries are so wholesome and sweet. No snarky remarks, long lists of crushes or revenge fantasies like mine.

I wonder if Mom’s posts are encoded like mine were. For example, does “I had cookies and milk with Anne after school” really mean “I kissed Johnny under the bleachers.” Not that I would do that (cough).

I admit that it’s a little weird to retain my gallstone from 1989, but the hospital gave it to me and you know how hard it is to throw away gifts. Plus, I earned it; it was many years in the making. Hey, don’t judge. At least I didn’t follow through with my original plan to have it polyurethaned and made into a necklace. Having a “conversation piece” is one thing. Causing people to run screaming from the room is another matter altogether. So, every few years, I take it out and “visit” with it.

Which brings me to why I keep the things I do. Every now and then, I pull them out and “visit” with them. Sometimes it feels like that: a nice visit with an old friend.

It’s much easier to have these things to prompt old memories than to carry it all around in my head. Mementos can instantly transport you to another place and time, like a well-written book.

I do have to admit that I’m rethinking saving the gallstone. Maybe I’ll throw it out tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow.

Salt Magazine

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