Im/Permanence of Words

A weird thing just happened – I don’t know WHY I do this – but I was browsing through my high school boyfriend’s profile pictures on Facebook (we’re not actually FB friends but I can see all his profile pictures) and one had his handwriting on it. I had an immediate and visceral reaction to seeing his handwriting – after all these years (we broke up in 1992) – because for the most part, our relationship was long-distance.

This was before e-mail (well, not technically, I guess, but nobody I knew used it yet) so all our correspondence was hand-written. We used to fill up entire notebook/journals and send them to each other. I think he sent me around nine, over the course of three years, and I sent him a lot more than that – maybe two dozen.

Here’s the part where I invite your judgement. After we broke up, I didn’t know what to do with all those notebooks. For a couple of years I hauled them around in a box between college and my grandma’s house, along with all the paraphernalia/detritus from our relationship (mix tapes – remember those? – a T-shirt with a photo of the 2 of us printed on it, the half-heart necklace pendant). My parents didn’t have a home in the US where it would have been practical to keep them, and we were all trying to reduce the amount of stuff we had in storage at Grandma’s. So finally I decided I was going to read through them all and then get rid of them. I didn’t even make it through one. It was too annoying, somehow. I wrote and asked him if he wanted them back and never got a response. So I buried them in a cardboard box, along with all the other detritus, under an apple tree by the abandoned chicken house on the farm.

A few years later – I think around the time I graduated from college – I sent him a copy of a paper I’d written for my senior seminar class in English Lit because I knew he’d be interested in the subject matter (and because I wanted to show off a little as it was a kick-ass paper) and he and his wife both wrote back very kind, very surprised letters. He offered to send my all my old journal/notebook/letters because he still had them…


Well, I had to tell him I didn’t have his anymore. And I didn’t want mine back. Honestly, I have very little interest in reliving those years through those journals, knowing how entangled everything would be with the drama of our relationship. It’s bad enough reading through my college journals. Gah. But I feel really, really awful about effectively destroying his. I know he valued the little drawings he sent me, for example.

Our correspondence did not continue so I have no idea what he ended up doing with my old journals, and I don’t really care.

I have more thoughts about this but not much more time to write today so I thought I’d just toss out a couple questions – how heinous a sin did I commit by destroying the journals he sent me? Were they mine to do with as I pleased? Or not? And how does this whole thing compare to the implications of deleted blogs?



4 Responses to “Im/Permanence of Words”

  1. St. Elsewhere Says:

    Going through old cards and old journals/diaries is a little embarrassing for me. They were mushy years for me.

    I am not sure if I am right to judge you and say you did correct or wrong with them. But I do know that he sent them to you, FOR you. So they ARE yours. And you can do what you please.

    He still had yours…it appears he valued your journals a lot more than the way you processed his ones.

    That deleted blog discussion on Mel’s blog is fantastic. And I would still say that in a relationship even though there is a bond between two people, the warmth and magnitude on either side is a vector quantity and not a scalar one.

    • Elizabeth Says:

      Well, I was the one who broke up with him (over the phone, too – good lord how awful). “Vector quantity and not a scalar one” – very poetic image…

  2. Rachel Says:

    I don’t think it is a huge deal that you no longer have them. Once you give a gift you have no control over what happens to it.

  3. jjiraffe Says:

    No big deal you didn’t have them. It was OK for him to keep yours? I might freak out about that to be honest 😉

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