Bar Mitzvah Memorabilia


    Dear Miriam,

    My parents are moving out of my childhood home, and I spent all last weekend clearing junk out of the garage. Among the boxes was a crate of all the cards from family and friends that I got for my bar mitzvah, as well as photos, memory candles and t-shirts that say, "I had a blast at ____'s bar mitzvah." That's right, it was rocket-ship-themed. I'm in my 30s and not married, but I hope to have a family someday. Part of me wants to throw it all away, and part of me thinks I'll want it again in the future. What do you think?

    Bar Mitzvah Memorabilia

    Dear Memorabilia,

    Having grown up in small town America where I didn't know many Jewish kids and as a result didn't have the pleasure of attending bar mitzvahs every weekend of middle school, I can only imagine just how many memory candles you have (and just what they actually are). I did, though, save all the cards I received, not just for my bat mitzvah, but basically every card I've ever received. Period. So I might not be the right person to ask.

    All that being said, here's what I would suggest. Bring the box inside, or back to your own home if your parents need it gone immediately. Sometime when you aren't in a hurry, spend an afternoon and go through everything, piece by piece. If there's a card signed by someone who is no longer remotely part of your life, or, worse, someone who you don't remember, consider very strongly putting it in the recycling bin. If there are cards with just a signature and no personal message, also consider getting rid of those (exceptions apply if it's the only piece of paper you have with a beloved deceased relative's signature). Read all the cards with personal notes from people with whom you are still close and then decide if you're going to want to read it again, or if one last look is sufficient. Also, depending on your relationship with technology, consider scanning the cards and then getting rid of the paper, or take a picture with your camera phone.

    If the t-shirts are all from your own bar mitzvah, save one as a memento, and donate the rest to a used clothing store. (Click here for just one of many accounts of what happens to old bar mitzvah t-shirts. I happen to have a soft spot for this subject and this book because I was reading the book the night I met my husband, and when he endured hours of conversation about what happens to t-shirts, I really thought there might be something there. I was right.)

    As for the memory candles, pens, wax hand molds and other tchotchkes, arrange them all in a tableau, take a picture and then throw them away. If you're really, really into nostalgia, feel free to take pictures of them individually and email a picture to the person who gave you each one. Your friends might appreciate the trip down memory lane (but they also might wonder why you've held onto to this stuff all these years). Resist the urge to send the actual items to your friends (or former friends), because they might return the favor and give you back some more t-shirts.

    I hope that you get married and have a family someday since that's the direction you want your life to take, but there is a zero percent chance that your future kids will think less of you because they won't have vintage bar mitzvah favors to help connect them to your past. Free yourself from this box that's reappeared in your life, and start making some new memories.

    Be well,