Do I need these old papers? Also, secrets you discovered from snooping through your parents' stuff

I went to my safety deposit box today and was reminded of this old folder I have put in there. My mother kept it for years and years. In it are grades, transcripts, notes from teachers, awards and other stuff from my grades 4-12 or thereabouts.

I am not possessed with a great deal of nostalgia for stuff. That is, I do feel it, but it wears off and the item in question loses its charm. So I thought to pull all of this stuff out and shred it. Do I really need it for anything? It’s charming and sentimental but I don’t need charming and sentimental, and I have been through this folder many times and don’t really need to anymore.

I do remember one of the first times going through this folder when I got my hands on it. Apparently my parents had had plans for me I had never known! I found several letters written by my mom and signed by my dad enquiring about entering me in private schools. Not so bad, but then I also found some letters asking about enrolling me in an all girl’s school in India! :eek: Back when I was in seventh grade, no less. Mom even blatantly lied in the letter:

“She, herself, is very much ambitious of joining a decent institution in India.”

Was I? Really? It certainly would have helped if you had, you know, talked to me about it!

Now I was legitimately snooping through my parents’ stuff (in that she had given it to me and it was really MY stuff, anyway) but I’d love to hear any stories you guys might have.

I think any records from when you were a minor are fair game to get rid of if they don’t hold any personal value for you. Shred away!

The closest thing I can think of (and I was totally illegitimately snooping at the time) was a report to my parents from my summer camp counselor. The counselor – who I worshiped and thought liked me a lot as well – basically threw together a bunch of random references to camp activities and plugged in my name. Like, “She especially enjoys baking in the adobe oven.” I was quite incensed to read that, because it was by far the lamest activity and one I didn’t like much at all. In hindsight I assume she pretty much sent the same report to all parents with their kid’s name inserted, and who can blame her? We were all alive, healthy and not disruptive. Good enough.

Have you thought about whether your children and further descendents might like to have this information some day? I have gotten interested in my family’s genealogy, and one frustrating thing is the lack of any information filling in the gaps. Family history is more than who married whom, and who were their parents.

Just one point on the side of keeping randumb stuff like this.

It’s not my secret, but an ex-GF and current friend of mine was shocked and dismayed to discover a shoebox filled with love letters her mother had written to another man before marrying her father. There was no question of infidelity; my friend was just distressed that her mother had ever loved anyone but her daddy.

It’s not quite a matter of discovering something from one bit of information, but a few years ago, after my mohter’s funeral, my older brother and two of our cousins had gathered for our ritual post-funeral drinking & reminiscing session. The latter part of the exercise was punctuated by us all comparing notes and realizing that the reason our shared maternal grandfather had abandoned his wife and children (our mothers and grandmother) was that he was wealthy and white and did not want to be tied to a poor black woman in Mississippi in the 30s. I wasn’t completely surprised, as I’d done some geneological research and already figured it out before then, but I’d never shared the information; and our mothers were all so closed-mouthed that they’d never told us.

To Roderick Femm: No children, and no intentions of ever having any. As to the nephew and nieces, I have things I plan for them - gold and such, heirlooms that have been passed through the generations - but nothing like this.

To Skald: Funny, this sort of thing happens all the time in India. Men and women fall in love constantly and then marry elsewhere…it is a sad story and I would not at all be surprised to discover that my father, at least, had a different woman in mind before he married Mother. Dad was rich(er) and had access to girls; mom was very poor so I doubt she even had time to go looking for boys - food was actually in doubt sometimes in her house. I’ve often wondered what I would think if I found love letters from/to Mom, but she was even less nostalgic* than me, and never kept anything that didn’t have importance.

*Every year I take on more traits of my mother. I try very hard to ensure I take on only the good ones.

I once found an old diary of my Mom’s that she kept up with briefly in the seventies. There was one entry detailing an incident I remembered from when I was in about fourth grade, when I had taken my new messenger bag to school and the teacher told me I couldn’t use it, I’d have to get a regular backpack.
I don’t recall it as a big deal, but Mom had written out all this sadness and anger at the teacher because she thought my feelings were hurt. Awww!

By the bye, my grandma has a bunch of my horrid little stories and drawings from when I was a kid. Sweet of her to save them, but when she is gone, they will be gone shortly afterward.

I would love to have, or have access to, documents like that from my older family members. Not that you are old, by any stretch, but I’m thinking of future generations. But if you’re not inclined to hang onto things ‘just in case,’ then I’d say toss 'em.

I do have some letters my dad wrote to my mom thirty-ish years ago, shortly after they divorced. Mostly the letters consist of updates on me and my sister, but there are bits about feelings and acceptance too. My mom gave me the letters last year, and I read three or four straight away, sorted them into a binder, and stashed them away. A few weeks later I had an epiphany: From the age of eight on, I essentially grew up without a mom. I’d been ignoring or rationalizing that since 1981, and now I’m finally acknowledging it.

Having the letters put a big ole crack in my wall, and I’m still trying to decide if I’m really okay with that.

Nudes of both my parents, taken by each other and developed in a home darkroom. Mom was hot! And I didn’t quite inherit her all her curves :frowning:

I was snooping as a teenager and found out my mom had been married previously. To this day, she has never mentioned it. My dad told me the story as he didn’t see what the big deal was. I later got independent confirmation when they needed me to pull their marriage license. I have yet to see what the big deal is.

I’d be more surprised to discover something about my dad since he loves to tell stories and has had no issues discussing past girlfriends and even mentioning that he almost got married when he was in his early twenties.

I found a real bombshell going snooping through my mom’s papers when I was young.
My siblings and I had an older sister we knew nothing about. She was born with truly devastating physical/brain deformities and was institutionalized for most of her life.
There was an annual review from the place that suggested she had an IQ of 10. They sent a picture - she looked like a cross of my mother and me, absolutely my sister. It was eerie seeing a photo of someone who clearly was related to you who you didn’t know existed.
Much discomfort ensued asking my mother about her.

I’d save it. Who knows what relations in the future may find it of interest, even if you don’t?

I have a diary written by my grandfather in 1919, when he was 25. Stuck into it are small photographs of him and my grandmother and their friends, picnicking in the fields overlooking the sea near Folkestone, England. In one picture, Grandma is posing, writing in her diary among the wildflowers.

These kind of ephemera really put a different face on people, and help us to see them as people, not just the roles that we remember from our own viewpoints and lives.

Then there were the ‘surprises’ my sister and I found in my father’s papers… and my sister has my stepmother’s diary which had a few eye-openers as well.

(Yeah, since Dad died, I’ve been getting into the genealogy…)

This reminded me of another friend of mine, who discovered she had an older brother when we were in our 30s. He had no disabilities, and he shared both parents with her; their parents had simply become estranged from him when my friend was a baby and hadn’t seen him in decades.

My Mom gave me a similar file, 'mika, and my first inclination was to shred it all too. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. My file largely old report cards and notes from teachers. I don’t have kids either so there really isn’t a reason to hold on to it and I don’t like having too many things laying around.

As for future genealogists, fuck 'em. It’s none of their business.

We’ve found quite a few racy letters, nude photos, and naughty cartoons while sorting through old things belonging to my grandparents. The most surprising, however, were the photos we found of my great-grandfather that my grandmother had hidden away (this would be photos of her husband’s father). We are a white family. Great-grandfather was black.

I just can’t see anyone really being that interested in their aunt or their great-aunt. I’m rather estranged from my family and they are not that kind of people anyway - seriously, I am the first one to ask for a family tree. My (adopted) brother will have kids but they’re not my blood, so why would they care? My SO has a nephew and niece but while I love them they are being raised VERY self-centered so I don’t think they’ll care either. And I hold no responsibility to the future generations just to satisfy their curiosity.

I mean, I of course have the adoption papers safe, and my naturalization certificate, and things like that. But this stuff I just don’t see me needing, and I am planning to shred it.

Before you shred… think about that in 25 or 30 years from now it will be fun to read. That’s my policy. You can always shred it, but once it’s gone you can never retrieve it. As long as it doesn’t impose on your living space.

You have inspired me. I will shred them tonight.

I have a niece and nephew who share my blood and they will get any valuable heirlooms, which are very few in number, but my paperwork will be gone by this time tomorrow.

It wasn’t that fun to read when my mom gave them to me a few years ago at which point they were over 20 years old. I doubt that they’ll get more fun with age.

I just shredded mine. They are already over 20 years* old at this point, and it’s not fun to read them anymore. Plus, I hate being tied down by the past. I spent too much of my twenties being tied by my past, and my ENTIRE family is wound so tightly around their past I can’t stomach it.

*I can say things happened twenty years ago and I remember them quite clearly. I don’t mind growing old(er), but it is an interesting thought. :slight_smile:

Off-topic slightly, when my adopted brother told me he was having kids, I immediately planned to give my gold jewelry to his daughter instead of the SO’s niece. I really don’t think the SO’s nephew and niece will appreciate them in the same way, and even though my brother’s kids won’t share my blood he’s my brother in spirit and I’d rather give to that side of the family.

After my mother died I found my “baby book”. She’d never finished it, but had kept it for 27 years. Under “color of hair” she wrote “none”.

She could have left it blank…