Like many of you, this extra time at home is sending me on a sentimental journey down memory lane as I sift through boxes piled up in the basement, garage, high up on shelves that I’d fairly well forgotten about, hadn’t the faintest idea I still had.

Heady things like a grade school autograph book with this inscription: Roses are red/ Violets are blue/ I’m your friend/and you’re mine too.

Epic poetry.

Maybe we’re lacking some wider affection right now, or maybe we’re sentimental for the good old days, or maybe it’s the time of year, or maybe we have time on our hands, plain and simple. Either way, people everywhere are sifting, sorting and trashing.

Stay-at-home and spring cleaning together are creating a pile of junk sitting on curbs stretching across the globe like, well, the virus.

Except some of this stuff people want to get.

Like my sister’s moldy chunk of 6’ fence, which some guy hoisted onto his car even before she turned back from her street.

Yet in this frantic release, I’d advise caution. Go slow, stay sane. Don’t move so fast in a mad fury to tidy up your castle that you later realize you miss the straggly childhood puppets, the hair bow from your first school dance. You don’t want to be haunted by what’s gone.

I know from experience.

I’ve spent hours discarding old clothes, knick knacks, books, then turned to reading letters from Mom, Dad, old boyfriends, old girlfriends. Found the stained napkin from my Sweet Sixteen with the names of all my guests. Found the fertility statue I got as a wedding present (grunting pigs). Found pins and plaques and certificates and prom booklets and did I mention old love letters which I wave in front of my husband to remind him if he doesn’t get this pandemic relationship right, there could be someone in another state who still wants me.

If I can get there now.

Details, details.

Or is it time to toss? Like my elementary school autograph book. At what point have you held onto things long enough.

When I’m older and grayer (lots of gray now), will this stuff give me a warm, silly feeling (giggly), a sinful, naughty feeling (blushing), a sense of life fully lived (even bad boyfriends make great stories).

I explore and I wonder.

Me: If I save the love letters I found, will you sneak in and read them?

Him: Are you kidding?

Me: You don’t care?

Him: I’d rather read a good book.

Me: You’re not jealous? I think you should be jealous.

Him: All I can think is ewww.

And I had to admit when it came to reading those letters, I felt ewww too. Did I really want to revisit the angst, the confusion, the drama. Did I want to remember the highs and the lows, the heartache and redemption of the heroes and weirdos.

Before I realized slow and sane is the right approach to this clean-up task, I threw out the autograph book, barely looked it over. Dumb. I can’t help but think someone grabbed it and is reliving my poetic childhood.

To make up for it, I saved a few love letters, just enough to make me remember the free-spirited, giddy, innocent and not so innocent parts, should I need that in the midst of our current serious state. I just might.

It can be our secret. Maybe you have one too.

Donna Debs is a longtime freelance writer, a former KYW radio news reporter, and a certified Iyengar yoga teacher. She lives in Tredyffrin. She’d love to hear from you at

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