Stories and thoughts about family and life

The Good Ol’ Days

on April 8, 2012

I’ve been on a spring cleaning kick the past couple of weeks.  We’re not making quite as much progress as I would have hoped, but we’re gradually getting there.  My 11 year old was cleaning out his closet and suddenly appeared in my bedroom with an old popcorn tin (you know, the kind you get at Christmas with three types of popcorn in it).  He couldn’t get it open, and asked why it was in his closet.  I immediately recognized it, and remembered I had stored it there because I didn’t want to leave it in the attic and he had plenty of room in his closet as a toddler who only wore a small variety of clothes.

I have always been somewhat of a pack rat, especially with things of high sentimental value.  I knew that’s what was in this tin–probably love letters from my husband when we were dating, photographs, etc.  I hadn’t been in this tin probably since we were married (which has been over 20 years now). I was excited at the prospect of what might still be in there, and am amused to tell you that I’ve spent the last four hours (yes, you read that right FOUR HOURS) going through it all.

The first thing I found included a small bag (like a change purse) which held graduation name cards, three small marbles (I used to joke that I’d always have them handy), an old “Wrangler” leather nameplate from some jeans–don’t ask me why!, and a pair of sewing scissors.  I get the marbles and the name cards.  The rest is pretty much a complete mystery to me.  I am amused now wondering why on Earth I thought these things were important enough to keep.

Lucas enjoyed going through the coin purse with me, and found it amusing that his mom is so sentimental.  As I started pulling out the papers in the tin, he lost interest.  For that, I’m really grateful.  Going back all the way to 1985, I had a school spelling bee word list, report cards, postcards which used to hang on my wall from relatives traveling, a silver coin from Silver Dollar City (in Branson), clippings from the newspaper (including one on a fellow classmate and good friend of mine achieving a special honor our senior year), medals, birthday cards, and various other little pieces of memorabilia.

Probably the most entertaining, though, were the notes.  Lots and lots and lots of notes.  A very dear friend of mine and I argued for most of an entire school year over a boy (neither one of us is with him, in case you’re wondering).  I do vaguely remember the incident, and us remarking later (and several times since then) how silly it is that we did this, and how we nearly ruined our friendship over him.  Notes about us making up, and notes about how we wish he would just choose, and notes about things he had told one or the other of us.  As freshmen and sophomores in high school, we were so dramatic, with our back and forth comments.  I even found the “break-up” note from the guy saying “it just can’t be–I can’t give you the feelings you want and it will never be anything more than physical.”  Physical, huh?  He never got past second base, although we were probably cruising toward third a couple of times (or at least second or third base in 1988.  Who KNOWS about now?!?).  But, you don’t have to worry–I was a pretty good girl.  So, as a sophomore, I was 15.  My son is 11.  Puts it in perspective.  Holy cow!

I never thought of myself as particularly attractive–not that I was unattractive, necessarily, but not exceptionally pretty.  Certainly not to get the attention of the boys with whom I went to school.  There were so many prettier girls, and cooler girls, and certainly probably more obliging girls.  I was a bit of a tomboy and didn’t get into that “do things to get your attention” frame of mind.  I was raised to be pretty independent, and I obviously accomplished the task.   So imagine my surprise when I read in the notes about a couple of boys that were pretty interested (but whom I don’t recall much of that kind of attention).  I even acknowledged it offhandedly to the same friend with whom I argued about the other boy, but I took it so not-seriously that it’s a wonder I ever ended up with a boyfriend, let alone a husband.  🙂

There were report cards (which put into sharp clarity why I should maybe ease up on Lucas a bit–I still graduated with a decent GPA and without an extreme amount of effort).  There were notes from various teachers, and clippings from magazines and books.  Like this one:  “Gemini Birthday Profile.  The Twins. . .air sign. . .You are a lively quipster, Gemini!  You spar with your wits, not your fists; your wisecracks are a roar.  Your words may be cutting at times, but at least nobody’s bored or sleepy when you’re on duty!  Boys love your pretty pixie eyes, which sparkle with mischief.  You enjoy checking out gorgeous guys, but make sure you seek out the ones with brains as well.  They know how to amuse YOU, the school flirt!”  I probably was well-amused by this at the time, especially since I thought no one was looking at me!

I have letters from friends who had moved away, or moved away and moved back during the years we were in high school.  I realized how very close I was to several friends (one boy whom I talked to nightly on the phone), and how special our relationships were.  I chuckled reading how “boy crazy” we girls all were (and how “girl crazy” my guy friend was), and how we were all generally supportive of one another and promised so many times (in writing, no less!) to keep one another’s secrets so well hidden.  We would write notes about how we “needed to talk” at lunch and how our lives were so involved in what each person was going through.  It’s amazing.

I’m very fortunate to call these same people some of my dearest friends even today.  We’ve been exceptionally lucky to maintain the relationships we had, and to continue to benefit from one another’s company.     There were photographs I had taken in high school, some from photography classes and others for yearbook and other photography positions in which I served.  It was very rare to see me without a camera, and I’m sure my boyfriend at the time tired of hearing that I was always on my way to shoot something.  My aspiration at the time was to work for Life Magazine as a photojournalist, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  I still am frequently carrying a camera, but my life is SO very different from those original aspirations.

I found a notebook I carried during Army Basic Training, which housed various class notes, and the things we were expected to be able to recite from our “smart book” (the handbook you’re given and expected to pretty much memorize).  We had to be able to recite upon request various positions in the Army, from the Commander-in-Chief to the Secretary of the Army and on down to our Command positions on post.  I was just telling the kids the other night stories of that, and it was funny to now find all that in writing.  I found a couple of letters I had drafted “I am waiting for my firing order to be called, so I thought I’d start a letter to you” on a hot summer day at Ft. Jackson.  I found first aid instructions, duty roster positions, and even medical notes following up on a test I had performed while I was there.    I found a postcard I had sent my parents of the post area where we were in-processed, had vaccines, received our uniforms, and went to meals (chow hall, as we affectionately called it).  Lucas had drifted back into my room by then, and thought that was pretty interesting, along with photographs of the confidence course where I first rappelled, called “Victory Tower.”  I have mixed feelings about that place, having a crippling fear of heights.

I found cards from flower shops over the years for flowers and balloons for everything from birthdays to graduation and “I’m sorry.”  I found programs for the junior prom where I was Mistress of Ceremonies (and for which my dress was a little too loose after my having lost a significant amount of weight just before prom).  I remember being worried the entire night that my floor-length, sleeveless dress would end up on the floor as the poor kid sitting next to me at the head table kept resting his foot on the hem of my skirt, which would very nearly promise to provide the entire audience with a show worthy of much older than 17 and 18 year olds, if you know what I mean. . .

I’ve spent the afternoon texting the primary three people who were featured in the collection of notes, letters, and photographs.  My husband also had several items in the tin, just in case you were wondering. Just to show you how special HE is, though, I’ll tell you he has his own tin.  I’ve saved every letter, card, etc. he ever gave me.  Maybe I’ll pull those out and read them next weekend. . .


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