My very good friend and much admired fellow member of my writers group, Lindsey Crittenden, has a personal essay today in the New York Times. It’s about sorting through her parents’ belongings after both had died, and it’s poignant and beautiful. Here’s a snippet:

“One day I turned to Photos & Stuff, six boxes labeled in my father?s chicken scratch. I reached for the box cutter, but the cardboard was so soft that the flaps almost fell apart in my hands as I started sneezing from the dust. These were old boxes, the contents in no particular order.

The year of my birth seemed as good an organizational device as any, so I made two piles, Before 1961 and After 1961, and draped a Hefty bag over a chair for trash. Most decisions came easily. I didn?t need two pictures of blurry pink bougainvillea against a whitewashed wall, or 10 shots of my nephew with his chubby fist in his first birthday cake. But the accumulated glimpses ? Mom?s smile, Dad?s eyes crinkled in laughter ? added up and, after 10 minutes, I was worn out.

I was halfway through a roll from a trip my parents had taken to Grand Teton National Park in 1995, flinging scenic vista after scenic vista into the Hefty bag, when my hand stopped. A shot of a wooden chapel on the edge of a field glorious with lupine. I recognized the scene from a moment of family lore: in 1970 my brother, then 3, had walked into that empty chapel to recite the Lord?s Prayer without prompt. He?d died in 1994, the year before Mom returned to the spot and took the photo.

I wasn?t just the person deciding which pile it went into; I was the only person alive who understood why it had been taken in the first place. If I threw it away, I was throwing away layers of emotion and association and identity. And if I kept it, well what then? ”

Read the rest here.

“The Water Will Hold You,” Lindsey’s recently published memoir, is exquisite too, by the way. “Exquisite” is the word I used in the quote I provided for the jacket, but I’m hardly alone in the sentiment: Publishers Weekly called the book “exquisitely written” in a starred review. Check out Lindsey’s book here.

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