“Why do you keep them though?” She asked as she flicked her hand-rolled cigarette into the ashtray on my kitchen table.
I looked back down at the prayer cards in my hand. One was from the Tomb of St. Francis – It was given to me by one of the Monks when we had visited on our engagement trip. Maybe that was why? The others I couldn’t remember, but they had moved wallet to wallet, tucked beside the other things that weren’t necessarily money or IDs, or credit cards, but I felt the need to carry them with me.
“I feel weird throwing them out.” I decided. She launched into a story about her extremely-religious family members and their intense gifts full of saints and angels. The question still echoed in my head drowning out her words.
The ones I didn’t keep in my wallet meant more to me, but hurt more too. Tucked into the side of the mirror on the dresser in New England, my army of angels smiles at me from different prayer cards – decorated with some poem of hope sprawled on one side, a religious photo or something on the other. Nana, Dud, Dad, Jean, Paulie, Jay, Annie, each one taken from a funeral. Bookmarks of death. My wallet wouldn’t be big enough to carry them all with me, so I Ieave them where they look at me as I look in at myself, my face next to them.
As I collected my things this past summer, the conversation was still in my head as I took each card down from the mirror that would be put into storage along with the rest of the house. I plucked each prayer card out of its place, slid into the side of the frame, and tucked them into my suitcase. Now they sit in my desk, not displayed, but present, and I guess I keep them because I can. Maybe because I know that the other copies of those cards sit in other dressers and on other mirrors of people that I love and that feel the same nostalgia and the same longing when they hold these little pieces of paper. I keep them because it means that that part of me is still physically real, and because my family has a habit of keeping things that hold memories of who they were and when there were moments of happiness and sadness.
My life is attached to so many little pieces of paper – but the ones that mean more to me hold much more than ink.