It’s Only Property – But it’s All We Have

Dearest Rachel –

Since I was awoken this morning by the dog whimpering (he’d pooped in his sleep on the blanket yet again – I do sometimes wonder why I wash it every time he does this, as this means I’ll wind up sticking it in the laundry almost every day at this rate), this morning’s dream was interrupted somewhat. But I think I got most of it in. To say nothing of the message.

Although how much I’m going to act on that message, and how soon, remains to be seen.

Honestly the image is a rather sparse this time around – probably because of the interruption. What I do remember was being in a vast auditorium, to which I had brought my laptop in a backpack, and for whatever reason, a box of audiotapes. At some point, an altercation broke out, which quickly developed devolved into a fight, and then a complete riot. Obscenities were yelled, stuff was being thrown, you and I were keeping our heads down as best we could. I could hear the sounds of things being broken, either as they were stepped on, or when the thrown things reached the end of their arc one way or another.

Official-looking people in uniforms showed up at some point, announcing to the assembled crowd to “please disperse,” but I felt compelled to go back to where my seat had been (over your objections, curiously – although given the other debris I was picking through, and the continuous announcement from these officials, you probably had a point), and look for the stuff I had left behind. From what I remember, my backpack and the laptop inside seemed to be in decent shape (I mean, it’s a dream – I’m not about to try and turn it on to prove that it was actually working as such). But the tapes were scattered, their cases shattered, and I had no idea whether everything was still together.

If there’s a message to all this – and for once, I think there actually is – it seems to me that I need to get on the stick about our collection of media, and move it from physical the digital before something happens to it.

I don’t know where this came from, or why I experienced this dream today in particular. You and I would, from time to time watch these ‘mostly peaceful protests’ on the news last year, and hear the rationalizations that “it’s only property“ and “they have insurance.”

All of which may or may not have been true. Certainly, merchandise has no memories; it’s only when an item has been opened and used – and used well, and loved – that it develops a certain sentimental attachment. Consider the Velveteen Rabbit and the Skin Horse. At the same time, those justifications ring somewhat hollow, leaving one to wonder if those uttering them would say the same if the damage is happened in their neighborhood, in their house, to their stuff.

Similarly (and you know how I hate to be political in these letters to you, but these sorts of things were what filled our lives last year, whether we wanted them to or not), we were told that everything was happening to serve a certain ‘greater good’ of ‘social justice,’ whatever the heck that was supposed to look like once it was (assuming it could be) achieved. From my perspective, destruction rarely equals justice. Somebody’s getting shafted here. Besides, the last person I heard speaking of the greater good turned out to be a villain (Grindlewald) who influenced another villain (Voldemort). Although maybe that’s part of why people hate JK Rowling these days.

Okay, that’s more than enough digression.

The thing is, yes, it was only property being destroyed – just like those tapes were ‘only property.’ You can’t take it with you – even the pharaohs left it all behind for folks like Dr. Carter to find.

But I remember being distraught and angry at the destruction in my dream. I have no idea what was on those tapes, and even if they’d been perfectly whole after all that chaos, I would never know – because they were in a dream. But there might have been something important on them, something of you and I. Something… I can never get back.

I’ve mentioned the memories that are entwined in any well-loved object; the sort of love that – to once again reference the Velveteen Rabbit – give that object a life that made it so hard for you to give it (or anything) up. I see that same spirit and Daniel as he tries to clean up his own room in the same way that Jan and I have been working on the rest of the house. Things become infused with a sort of soul when you remember the memories you had with them. But those memories are individual, personalized, and to another person, that object may still be nothing more than an object. Just sitting there, serving no purpose. It doesn’t have those memories to them.

By contrast, with any sort of recording device – be it of audio, still photography, or video – serves to tell a piece of a story that may have been nearly lost to memory, as opposed to those individual memories that are kept within the heart of the one who owns any other sort of object. It thus serves doubly as a reminder of times gone by, places seen but once upon a time, and people who have left you – or you have left – behind. And because of this dual service, their destruction or loss is doubly tragic. Even their obsolescence it’s awful to contemplate, and a reminder that I really need to do something about all the media that we’ve discovered over these past six months.

I really wish you could show me again how to work the VCR.

As much as I enjoyed our trips here and there, and I’ve talked about the beauty of Barcelona several times before, there was that one time when I made the mistake of sitting down a camera in a coffee shop so as to use the restroom – only for it to have disappeared by the time I got back. I think part of my upset was the fact that it wasn’t actually my camera, but rather yours. At the same time, I have been using it to take pictures throughout the entirety of the trip, and now all those images were gone. Yes, the folks were with us, as were Jenn and Bill, and so they had taken pictures and sent copies of them to us to fill in our memories. But it wasn’t exactly the same thing. The things you and I shot may have been different – although, given my recent experience sorting through both photos and videos, we didn’t spend enough time focusing on ourselves or each other in those places we visited – but we’ll never know now.

Yes, it’s only property. A camera can be replaced. A computer can be replaced. But the memories they recorded…

…well, that’s all we really have.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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