Unpacking a hoard of memories

Isn’t it funny how one small, insignificant object (a scrap of paper carelessly scrawled upon; a forgotten ticket stub) can catch you unawares and plunge you suddenly back in time to a place, a person, a moment, a feeling?

I know it’s been a month and a half since I moved out of my little room overlooking Lausanne and left Switzerland with (significantly) more than just one tear in my eye, but I’ve only just started to

properly unpack. I mean to say, I fled the country less than a week after returning home for a five-week stint in China (which incidentally helped with not sinking into Swiss-less depression), so did not have much time to put things in order. Now, however, I can take my time to start dealing with some of the various (tedious) admin and whatnot that I’ve left hanging for the last month. I have started by unpacking my possessions.

The last of the chocolates have been eaten, clothes have been hastily shoved away and books piled somewhere on a shelf, and once the various documents and boring bureaucracy have been swept aside, I find myself left with a small pile of odds and ends; paper mostly. Papers and cards that had been slipped into a book in order not to get crushed in my luggage, and then forgotten about.

A folded map of Switzerland, which used to adorn my bedroom wall, brought an almost painful pang as I ran my eyes over the places I once visited, each name invoking a mental image, sounds and tastes, and the people who were with me. A small pile of postcards, some written to me, some bought as souvenirs from Swiss towns, elicited a wistful smile. My old metro pass (which is actually still valid), an ID pass for a tour of the United Nations, my residence permit; all still there, all with invisible threads of reminiscences attached.

Then the little bundle of papers that anyone else would undoubtedly throw away without a second glance. A rough sketch explaining the offside rule, a quick note scribbled on the way out the door, an unused envelope, useless now because of the scrawls and doodles covering it, some draft blog notes written in Ticino. Yes, anybody else would chuck them in a second; I myself had completely forgotten about their existence, but it is precisely for this reason that discarding them would feel like permanently losing the associated memories.

These days, with thousands of photos of yourself tagged on facebook, it’s not difficult to reminisce on events past. But nothing can replace the unexpected discovery of some little memento, some small article, worthless to anybody’s eyes but your own, for whom it is the key that unlocks a fount of recollections, moments in which a camera would never dream of being, and could not capture accurately in any case.

I hope this doesn’t turn me into a hoarder.

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