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(HOST) Commentator Madeleine Kunin packed up and moved recently, and she found that the process was a – well – moving experience – in more ways than one.

(KUNIN) Boxes, boxes, and more boxes.

I never knew that my life could fill up so many boxes until I moved recently from one condo to another.

Distance has nothing to do with the difficulty of the move. The packing job was the same as if I had moved to Timbuktu or down the street.

The biggest job was books. I love to buy them, read them, hold them in my hand, admire them on the shelf. But I almost never re-read them. And when a friend wants to borrow a book, I have a hard time finding it – or remembering to whom I might have lent it.

What to keep, what to give to the library. These are not easy decisions: books carry memories. The books represent various stages of my life; and even though I may never touch them again there are some – like favorite college books and beloved novels – which must stay within reach.

At the end of the packing process I lingered less, and gave away more. Fatigue sped up my pace.

In the process of packing, I also opened boxes which had been unopened for some years. What should I keep and what should I toss?

Bundles of old campaign buttons, bumper stickers, posters, some of my own, and many from other candidates, both winners and losers. Are they collector’s items, or junk? I held on to all of them, thinking that someday someone will want these.

The most time consuming boxes were those filled with old letters, mementoes, bits and pieces of journals. Once I began to read them, I couldn’t stop.

I found a letter I had written to my first child before she was born, wondering what it would be like to bring her into the world, a letter I never mailed that expressed feelings that surprise me today, old telegrams I saved, and letters from my mother, my aunt, and children.

Then there were the photographs, tons of them, which never made it into albums but which I can’t bear to throw away. Celebrations, vacations, graduations, all accumulated over a lifetime.

I found a portfolio of my children’s drawings. I thought they were brilliant then. Now I know they aren’t masterpieces, but I hold on to them because they remind me of a special time.

Packing, unpacking, repacking – all the boxes make up a life. It’s not a neat life, carefully filed and sorted. It’s more like an archeo- logical dig, unearthing shards and trying to piece them together.

Moving is tiring – so many decisions.

It is also enriching – so many memories.

This is Madeleine May Kunin.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.

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