Right before Christmas, I enlisted my spouse to go up to the attic to retrieve our holiday decorations. We hadn’t been up there for over a decade. Along with the artificial tree, ornaments, garland, lights and tinsel, he brought down an inconspicuous black garbage bag containing a cardboard box. He looked inside and said, “It’s some of your old schoolwork.” I couldn’t imagine that’d be very interesting. I told him to put it to the side and I’d look at it later. Later finally arrived this week. Next Monday, on the Martin Luther King holiday, we’re going to dismantle the Christmas tree and put everything back into the attic. We’ve never waited this late in the year to remove Christmas from our lives. Then again, we aren’t even used to having a Chrismas so we’re enjoying it more than we should. I knew the black bag and its contents would be put away then too. So it was now or never to look inside.
A Treasure Trove Of Memories
January 15, 2014 by almostakiss
I have very few mementoes from childhood. All my toys were given away to my oldest half-sister’s kids. She had 5 kids and was always asking for them. My mom could never say no and we had such a small house, we had no room to keep them anyway. Some of my school papers were kept in the basement of the house I grew up in and I saw them briefly when my dad died. One thing that stood out back then was a crayon drawing I made of my dead cat Tiger in heaven wearing an angel’s robe that I wanted to keep. My brother was the executor of my dad’s will and made such an issue of ANYTHING being removed from the house then, that I just said forget it. He wanted to put a dollar value to everything, even personal property. I don’t want to delve off on a tangent about his because it still brings up sour feelings that I’ve for the most part overcome.
I didn’t expect much when I opened the box but it turned out to be a magical box filled with memories from my youth. Memories long gone. Some things I’d look at and it and immediately recognize. Others I’d have to think about long and hard and then I could vaguely remember them. Still others are memories that might as well belong to someone else. They are so far removed from my memory bank, they may as well be a stranger’s. That is a scary thought. Looking after my 92 1/2 yr. old mother who has Alzheimer’s has shown me firsthand what it’s like to lose your memories. The good, the bad and the ugly all disappear as if they never existed. “We only have the present” has never been more true. Things that were so important, you wouldn’t think you’d ever forget. Or things that were so hurtful or upsetting. Now here I sit, not for the first time, wondering if I’ll be succumbing to the demon called Alzheimer’s as well. Or if I’m already a victim in the early stages. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking or worrying about it since there really is nothing that can be done. But loss of any kind is hard.
Getting older has taught me to be more forgiving. I had very high expectations for my parents. Maybe everyone does?! I mean unrealistic in expecting them to be perfect. Of course, I expected myself to be perfect too. My mom was 41 yrs. old when I was born (her first and only child). My dad was 48 1/2 yrs. old then (I was his 5th child). More than once my dad forgot to pick me up at school. I usually took the school bus but for appts had to stay late or leave early. This happened in jr. high and high school and I had to walk home. 5 miles and 2 miles. He did remember before I made it all the way home but I could never get over the fact that he could “forget” me. I took it VERY personally. Now I wonder if I had kids late in life (instead of not at all), would I forget them? I know it’s different now, there’s cellphones that weren’t around back then. I don’t forget the dogs but I can see how it could happen. I am now in position to forgive a man who’s been dead for almost 25 years. It wasn’t like I was still holding a grudge or that this was the only thing wrong with our relationship. But I’m able to see how clueless I was to his side of things. How generous of me so many years after the fact. Oy. (I have another post in the making on unrealistic expectations in relationships.)
The contents of the box are mostly things from my early adulthood. The exceptions being a 2nd grade book of my stories colored in crayon and a few other items. I also found the book of Wacky Packages I made. These were stickers in the ’60’s and ’70’s that mocked different household products. I found them hilarious and had been wondering what became of the book. There was a newsletter I made for a club I formed with the neighborhood kids (COFYADU). Named after the first letter of my name, the 2nd letter of the vice president’s name (Joe), the 3rd letter of the secretary (Jeff), the 4th letter of the treasurer (Susy), the first letter of Doug, the 2nd letter of Julie. Everything I did had to be so elaborate back then. It wears me out just thinking about how I would think this stuff up! I had handwritten journal pages inside from my senior year in high school. There was a lot mentioned in those that I still don’t recall. There were some love letters from my husband from when we were in our 7 years of courtship (we were engaged most of that time). I had forgotten he made a definition of my name right after I started working nights at the Post Office which still makes me smile. There were the letters from the PO telling me I was hired. Addressed to “Mr”. ;-)
There’s a few sentences I had written in about 3rd or 4th grade that always get my husband roaring with laughter. It’s where I compare things to other things “only there’s more of it.” The reasoning of a 9 year old: “A rat is like a mouse only thiers more of it. A turkey is like a chicken only theirs more of it. A wig is like your own hair only theirs more of it. A field is like a yard only theirs more of it. A world is like a map only theirs more of it. A rectangle is like a square only theirs more of it.” How profound. One thing I notice in all my early writings was my spelling was atrocious. I’m surprised I ever learned to spell correctly. I remember when I first learned to write, they taught us something “new”in schools at the time. We were encouraged to spell words phonetically. The way they sounded. It’s amazing I was able to learn it the right way later. I don’t think this was taught everywhere. My husband grew up in a different part of the state and he didn’t learn this way.
I remember in around 7th grade having to take an outline of our silhouette and write in all the things that filled our brain or lives. Everything we liked, spent time doing or thought about a lot. My biggest section was BOYS. Ha ha. I was one of those weird girls who liked boys from Kindergarten on. I always had a crush on some boy or other. Sometimes 6 at a time. Other things taking prominence were: macaroni and cheese, babysitting, Chetek (where my folks had a cottage), Curtis my dog, fishing, talking on the phone, listening to the radio, etc. Things that took up a smaller section: playing records, penpals, homework, playing cello, Dairy Queen and bugging people. ;-)
The cutest thing to me was the postcard and letter I wrote to my cat Tiger when we were on vacation when I was 10 years old. My parents indulged me and let me use the free motel stationery but didn’t let me use actual postage to mail it. That didn’t hinder my imagination any. Part of the letter reads: “I might get you a mouse or a bird or some toy but I won’t forget you. I’ll make you a tuna fish cassoroll when we get back. I’m lonesome for you. I wish you were here.” The postcard reads: “I hope you took a bath while I was gone.” Ba ha ha! :-)
One of the greatest things I saw were several pages I wrote down starting in June 1991 when hubby got a management consulting job. It was with a now defunct company located in the city we live in now. We were living in WI then and hubby had to travel around the country, to at least 2 cities a week. Before cellphones, he had to fly, get a rental car, take a bus or drive his own car all over hell and back through all kinds of weather. Even to Canada. It was so hard on us since we only saw each other for a day a weekend or sometimes a few hours or some weekends not at all if they kept him out on the road. I wrote down all the businesses he analyzed and the cities and we had both forgotten a lot of them! I can hardly believe we survived that. It’s a blessing that I wrote it down because if I didn’t, there would be no way to recall that info. It would just be forgotten which is maybe what it should be. Hubby loved the work, he’s a people person and liked helping others. He wanted to make the businesses a success and learned so much about so many types of businesses. The travel was so draining. The people he worked for were not nice people and he had so much stress. He made good money then though but I don’t know if it was worth it to be apart from each other so much. Anyway, looking at the lists of places he went, I didn’t even remember writing them down. Gah!
If I’ve learned anything from opening the box, it’s to write everything down. Things you think you won’t need to know later or care about in the future can in hindsight be golden. I wish I’d been able to keep up a journal for my entire life. I tried numerous times as a child to go the diary route. It all seemed so mundane and I got too lazy to continue. Then I would read even the boring entries later with interest. Too bad I could never finish anything I started. There are so many things I’ve experienced that I still remember but only in the vague “had a wonderful time, did this and that” type of way. I don’t remember all the minor details that fill in the blanks. If I could pass words of wisdom on to anyone, it would be to start a blog from as early as you start using a computer. Even if it’s kept private for your eyes only. All the feelings you write down will be at your fingertips to experience and relive again and again. You can look at how far you’ve come. How much you’ve changed and how many things about you haven’t changed over the years. The only thing it would cost to do this is time. Time is a precious commodity but it is a fair trade to keep the memories alive.