I once believed that every family had one–NEEDED one. You know, the one who keeps things…forever.
Baby photos; newspaper clippings; cards from baby showers, birthdays, anniversaries; baptism certificates and scout awards; ancient report cards in a language no one can read; shot records; great-Aunt Eva’s interview with Mom; missionary letters; every darned holiday family newsletter ever produced; Great-great-grandpa’s drawings; kindergarten paintings so old only the paint remains intact; great-grandma Esther’s prayer book published in the late 1800′s, Mom’s handmade wool doll that dad bought her before the divorce, aunt Francis tiny gold perfume bottle she received as a gift for nursing in Iran…letters, hundreds of letters and poems…copied archives from the hoover institute that belonged to great aunt Evelyn who was a revolutionary that no one ever spoke of, old photos of faces everyone has forgotten, baby buntings and baby suits of middle-aged adults; a chanukiah made from the bullet shells left behind after the six-day-war, expired passports with of sunburnt faces…so young…lives gone by; dreams never realized.
I was my family’s keeper.
Yet, I have not passed that legacy on.
Who will be the keeper once I’m gone? So many stories, so many lives that should not be forgotten. I carried them with me wherever I went… across oceans and cultures, from home to home I kept them safe.
Today I parted with them. Six to eight boxes, thinned down to one. One box, so many lives. And I parted with the things I’ve kept all my life. They are too heavy to take with me.
And Fairbanks? I burned him, along with the paintings that reminded me of my struggle with him. I literately ripped him out of the photos and burned them, and threw out the negatives. And still I can’t erase him.
But I’m no longer his keeper. His image is not in the box. The box with Esther’s Hebrew prayer book.
I’m working with the boys, trying to teach them that it isn’t ok to keep things that aren’t theirs…like I did. I nursed the one who fell among thieves, and in so doing betrayed my own. I don’t know how to reconcile that with God’s command to be our brother’s keeper. The Samaritan left the wounded one in the inn, but I took him into my home. I kept him.
I don’t want my sons to be keepers.