I did something physically and emotionally exhausting today — and I’m not even finished with the project.
Long story short: My mom died suddenly in August 2006 at the age of 60. It was very hard on her sons (my brother and me), as well as on her husband (my dad) who had been married to her for the previous 39 years and had dated her for several years previous to that. Since then he’s met an absolutely wonderful woman whom we all love, and we feel it’s great that the both of them have had an opportunity to find each other and discover a second chance at love after losing their respective spouses.
Both she and my dad have lived in their homes since the early 1970s. And they’re putting both homes on the market and moving in together to a condo. I have no problem with this whatsoever — my dad’s happiness is the most important thing in this equation, but, as mentioned before, the woman he found is truly a great match.
What it does mean, however, is that the accumulation of stuff from my childhood, my teen years, and even my twenties which has been growing in the closet of what used to be my room needs to be cleaned out. And I started on that task today. It was quite an emotional feat for me. The types of things that came out of my closet really had me revisiting parts of my life I hadn’t been to for quite a while. Keep in mind that this house has been a constant for me since 1974.
Here are a few notable items I found:
* A poster promoting “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”
* A bunch of really lame cheesy lyrics that I wrote during my “I’m going to write songs so girls think it’s cool” era in high school. Titles included “Further and Further Away” and “Birds Fly Away.” You can kind of get the tone I was going for…
* A confirmation notice for my participation in “Hands Across America.” I was one of them! It was a great day in history since we ended world hunger just by having people touching each other from coast to coast.
* A map of Montgomery County, MD which, at one time, covered one of my walls and much of the ceiling of my room. You know those map books? I had bought two of them and taped the pages together to become one big honkin’ map. Took a long tme to do. I was proud.
* A “scrapbook” I made for a seventh grade assignment: to follow one specific relevant issue durng the 1984 presidential election. I chose the nuclear arms race. There were lots of articles cut out from the Washington Post stapled onto notebook paper.
* An envelope full of carbon paper. This was a memory which surprised me. We used carbon paper in our college chem lab notebooks for our lab reports. What surprises me is that this was commonplace when I went to college — and I frickin’ started college in the 90s! At this point I simply don’t see a relevant use for carbon paper. If anyone can think of one, please let me know.
* Labels inside clear plastic which look like this:
Extra points if you’re the first person to figure out what the hell this is and what I potentially would have used it for in my past…
* A booklet from the Bar Mitzvah of a guy named James with whom I attended a summer theater program back in junior high and high school. James has since become that guy who has been responsible, on an international level, to get MTV content onto cel phones in Europe.
* A basketball signed by the 1986 Washington Bullets. I won it in a raffle in eighth grade. Manute Bol is one of those who signed it. Gotta be worth something…
* Assorted Metro and Ride-On bus timetables from the mid-80s. I was a collector. And when DC’s metrorail came to our city in 1985, all of the bus routes changed. Me nerd.
* A gift certificate for fifteen dollars to Waxie Maxie’s, a local record store, dated November 15, 1991. Waxie Maxie’s went out of business sometime in the ’90s. I wish I could remember who gave this to me and why…
* A comic book called “The Might Atom: Starring Reddy Kilowatt” published by Western Mass. Electric Company in 1966 to teach kids about electrical energy. I think I’ll have to scan this in. It’s really … 60s.
* a poster from the center of “Penny Power” magazine pitting “sodas with caffeine” against “sodas without caffeine.” Penny Power was the kids’ magazine associated with Consumer Reports. This was before the days of caffeine-free Coke and Pepsi; the sodas without caffeine were 7-Up, Sprite, diet 7-Up, Sugar Free RC 100 (!), Diet Sunkist, Patio Orange Soda, Fresca, Hires Root Beer, and Fanta Orange. The soda machine motif at the top valued each soda at 50 cents.
* A 1984 Poster Calendar featuring Hall and Oates album covers. I think this was included in their “Rock and Soul Part 1” LP. Jealous?
* Another comic book: “Quincy Looks into his Future: Careers in Engineering” published by General Electric in 1973. This one seriously needs to be scanned and posted. It’s the story of a bunch of minority kids in the slums who go to a fortune teller at a street fair and learn about the world of engineering. It was part of a diversity initiative for the field. Some of it is classic 70s, but some is also way ahead of its time.
* Journal entries for my Freshman Year Seminar course at the University. These were (hand) written in the Fall of 1990 and come close to my blog writing style. I’m still somewhat in touch with the person who taught that class almost 18 years ago; maybe I’ll mail these to her…
* Letters from my friends. I went on a teen tour across the United States in the summer of ’89. Furthermore, I had some youth group friends whom I had met at different conventions across the continent. Since phone calls were prohibitively expensive compared to today’s standards, we wrote letters. And I have a buttload of mail to prove it! So the next time my youth group kids are whining about not being able to see their friends from across the country and how they have to resort to texting each other instead, I’ll show them a big stack of letters and slap them silly with it.
* One of these:
Ladies and gentlemen — the 8-Track of cameras!
* Longboxes. Two bags full of ’em. Remember these? When CDs started to hit the market, the music industry didn’t trust potential consumers who could possibly shoplift a CD easily because of its compact size compared to an LP. Hence, they decided to sell CDs in long boxes called “longboxes” in order to make the product more bulky and less prone to be stolen. Nowadays, the music industry has found far more creative ways to be less trusting of the consumer, so they’ve abandoned this extraneous packaging. But I still have ’em — including albums from Sting, Huey Lewis and the News, Depeche Mode and *shudder* The New Monkees. So embarrassing…
* The entire printed email exchange over several months between the first chick I ever met over the internet and myself. Her name was Jocelyn and she was a freshman at the University of Illinois. She was, literally, the first girl I met on IRC in the Fall of 1990. We developed a relationship because — well, we were desperate and needy, I guess. I eventually flew out to see her and all, and she let me down as easily as she could. Reading through these emails I realized what a self-absorbed ass I was at the time. I really cringed at the load of shit I was writing her every night. Remind me to invent time-travel so I can go back to the early 90s and beat myself senseless with that disc camera…
* A bunch of birthday cards from years past. These were the cards from when I was seven years old and on up — mostly from relatives who are no longer alive. My grandparents were always high up on that list. We’re talking about those cards with frogs and smiling caricatures of baseball players on them. It was nice to see the names of those who would remember, year after year, to send something nice to me. But it was also time to clean out the closet — and let go of some of these items.
However, there was a post-it note on the bag in my mom’s flawless handwriting:
“Do NOT throw out — Give to Mom.”
This stopped me dead in my tracks. I was paralyzed for the next ten minutes, just staring at that post-it. My mom had the best handwriting out of anyone I’ve known in my life — sadly both of her sons’ writing is nearly illegible. You could always tell what was written by her — the capital E for her first name was so perfect. Every letter was precise and well-formed. The words formed were always comforting, in a way. I could read them from such an early age.
Mom — if I could, I’d give you the whole bag of cards.
But I can’t.
Painful as it was, I threw out those cards. Life needs to move on. I’ll still cling to the memories of those people as much as I can. Perhaps the image of that post-it will haunt me for a while to come. But if I hang on, I’m just postponing the inevitable.
There’s still more in my closet to clean. I know I have to do it. I just need a break from it right now…