For most of my life I have been obsessed with holding on to things, chronically things, tracking things. I kept every Christmas card I ever received, even the ones from my bank. I kept all my old school papers and every program from every play I saw. Most importantly, I kept all my tickets stubs.
I’m not just talking about plays either. I kept movie stubs, I kept those little raffle tabs they give you at small events. Even when they didn’t have any identifying markers on them, I kept them. For 28 years I kept them.
It never occurred to me that I was engaging in a kind of isolated hoarding, because I still hadn’t exceeded the capacity of the jar I kept ticket stubs in. It turns out ticket stubs are small, and you can fit a LOT of them in a jar. But just because I can fit them all doesn’t mean I need to keep them all. And the practice of keeping every stub meant I could never just toss a used stub in the recycle: I had to go open up the jar and stuff it inside. It was extra work every time, and work I didn’t have to do if I stopped keeping every stub. So I stopped keeping, and I started sorting.
Some stubs brought up memories. I found the ticket from the first time I saw Anything Goes at The 5th Avenue Theatre in 2000, and from when I saw it there again in 2013. In 2013 my 27-year-old self noticed something that my 15-year-old self didn’t: that play gets weirdly racist at the end. I’m not sure why they keep doing it, except for maybe a burning urge to sing “It’s De-Lovely.” I threw out both stubs.
There were so many stubs from the UW School of Drama. I was an undergrad there, and the School of Drama productions were mostly performed by the grad students. So I was never in them and only casually knew the actors. But I still remember the show names perfectly after seeing them plastered on every wall and hearing my undergrad friends talk about running tech or getting supporting roles. She Stoops to Conquer, Big Love, Twelfth Night, The Quick Change Room. For all of these I have only a sliver of memory. Perhaps they were good productions, but I’ve seen so many good productions. I can’t hold on to them all. A few I will keep, because something about them really rings in my ears, even if I don’t remember all the details. I remember liking The Bacchae, though I also remember a lot of people hating it. I loved Arcadia, though that was probably Tom Stoppard’s fault. I know that Antigone was beautiful. The memories stay, but the stubs can go.
I had movie tickets that were ripped in half so you could only see the date and time, not the name of the film. Those got tossed. But that time I got to see the Dalai Lama speak? I’ll keep that.
I kept Young Frankenstein, which I adored. I tossed Spamalot, which was funny but not nearly so memorable.
I am positive I never actually saw Exorcist: The Beginning. Some vague memory says I was once handed the wrong ticket to a movie, but didn’t notice until afterwards. I know that whatever movie I saw, I saw it at around 10:40PM on August 22, 2004. But beyond that? Who knows. Plenty of good movies came out in 2004, including many I know I saw, and several that might have been playing in theaters that day. It seems strange to keep a piece paper that holds such a phantom of a memory. In the trash it goes.
I tossed a lot of ticket stubs for Mariner’s games, but I kept the one from that day my boyfriend and I saw the only combined no-hitter in Mariner’s history. Though regular no-hitters get all the glory, combined no-hitters are actually more rare, since a pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter is rarely removed from the game.
In terms of keeping a stub I should have tossed, the winner was a ticket for US Airways from Seattle to Las Vegas. It wasn’t even my ticket stub – the ticket was for my friend Chelsea from college. I messaged her asking if she knew why I might have her ticket stub. She said she thought she remembered me randomly finding it in a library book that she had apparently checked out before me. Perhaps that’s why I kept it. It must have felt like fate at the time.
These stubs, like all the memorabilia and mementos I save, have a common thread. It’s right there in the name: memory. These are the physical objects that are supposed to trigger those memories in me. But for years they just stayed in a jar. They didn’t trigger anything, they merely took up space. There was a certain pride in being able to say I’d kept every stub I ever received, but to what end? What good are mementos if those memories never leave the jar?
Ultimately the deciding factor on what stayed and what got tossed was how immediately the paper conjured up a memory. Anything that took too much work wasn’t worth keeping around, including one movie stub so wrinkled and faded that I could no longer make out a single word on the stub. Perhaps that memory would have been great, but it’s gone now. All the stub is (all the stubs ever were) is me clawing after something that once was, based on the assumption that the worth of the past is sacred and unchanging. But I think some memories are meant to dissolve, just like the paper they’re printed on.