People say I keep everything.

lauren duerring

Not in a pack rat sort of way--I don’t pocket tattered bits of used gift wrap or stash excessive amounts of plastic shopping bags into closets or anything like that.

No, the items I’ve kept for decades have been prudently organized along the way and placed into 16 Rubbermaid bins, awaiting just the right moment when someone asks if I can remember if a co-worker’s spouse was in my second grade class (“Give me a sec, let me just grab the photo”), when my daughter’s class recently read Gary Paulson’s “Hatchet” (“Wait, here’s my old paperback with notes in the margins,”) or programs from each wedding I’ve been in or attended since I was a child. I’ve always worn this kind of preservation as a badge of honor, and to my credit, I’ve kept all 16 bins so neatly packed away that no one ever truly noticed the volume of my collection, not even me. These full bins have followed me from place to place on the Westside like a little red wagon full of specially packaged treasures, just waiting for the right time to be rediscovered.


Until last month.


My husband and I had looked for our forever home for several years. We lived in our last house for a dozen of them, bringing our newborns home to that quiet cul-de-sac, hosting their birthday parties in the backyard, and starting our company with a couple of Hewlett Packard servers in the basement. Our kids are now older, as are we, and we found our home for the next stage of life together. When we began the moving process, it was evident that after packing up my children’s special boxes of handwriting papers and prized artwork alongside my own, something had to give. My purpose was no longer to save my keepsakes, but to begin their own collections.


Put simply, some of my stuff had to go.


I began the purge. My plan was to start with elementary school and work my way up. There was a lot of laughing and tugging at my heartstrings. After a few hours, I made it to the bins with the blue lids: my MSJ days. This was the biggest undertaking and completely overwhelming. I’d saved every binder, textbook, and essay from my content areas, foolishly thinking, “I might need them someday.” Ironically, I took my degrees and went on to be a tech reporter and co-found a streaming company, both careers that didn’t exist when my copy of “Introduction to Mass Media Communication” was published. There was so much to process, with many of deep breaths and the occasional expletive under my breath.

But digging past the mounds of textbooks and paperwork led to pure gold. I came across the most precious of albums and rubber-banded stacks of photos from the other half of college life—homecomings, Seton Hall, SGA election flyers, awards, concert tickets, and photos of trips with friends. It all brought an incredibly lovely time of life rushing back to me. I’m beyond lucky to still have some amazing friends from college, which we’ve aptly self-labeled our “Mount girls” group, and those early photos were unknowingly the sprouts of these lifelong friendships. There, in the middle of sorting through the last four decades on a cold concrete floor, I reflected on the blessing of these friends in my life.

I kept a copy of the College of Mount St. Joseph’s holiday card from 2004 that featured a photo of a friend and me holding an Advent wreath in the chapel. Most importantly, though, I have the memory of the day when Dr. Buffy Barkley introduced the two of us as incoming freshmen in the Humanities hallway. It’s not lost on me that our own daughters aren’t far from the age we were back then.

I held onto some hand-me-down novels from another friend who has been an incredible educator since the day she graduated from MSJ. When I pivoted from broadcasting to teaching and working on our start-up at night, this friend gifted me the book collection as a beginner set for my own little classroom library. The book titles aren’t important, but the hearty dose of her encouragement for my new beginning will always mean the world to me.

And, one of those wedding programs was from one of my best friends from second grade who happened to go to the Mount with me. I was honored to be her bridesmaid that July day in the Mater Dei Chapel, but I’ll never forget the day she met her future husband in my MSJ orientation group many years before. This past summer, she and I visited campus with our kids and created new memories of the next generation strolling around the quad together as if they owned the place… kind of like some kids we used to know.

Our group still plans trips together, volunteers together, celebrates successes together, lends support together. At this point, we’ve lived more life together than we have apart.

These friendships, these memories, and the memories that are yet to come, are more valuable to me than anything 16 bins of keepsakes could ever hold.


People say I keep everything.


Maybe they’re right.


Laura Hornsby Duerring, ’05 and ’10, earned bachelor’s degrees in English and Communication Arts and a Master of Arts in Education. She was an editor of the MSJ Dateline from 2001-2005 and served as president of the Student Government Association. She has worked in local broadcast television, co-founded an online streaming platform, is a local angel investor for startups focusing on early-stage capital, and serves as a university supervisor for the MSJ School of Education.

Pictured front left to right: Vanessa Pille Wellendorf ’05, Christy Buller Scherpenberg ’05.

Back left to right: Laura Hornsby Duerring ’10, ‘05, Erica Selby Schindler ’07, Lori Sullivan Rolfes ’05, Emily Goldschmidt Osterkamp ‘06, Rachelle Wittich Minter ’05.