Amazing new discovery: My childhood!

Well, ok – I admit, that headline is a bit misleading. As someone who spent 25 years in radio and now writes for children, one could make a case that I never really left my childhood.

Matt lunchbox
The only lunchbox I ever owned. Alas, it’s missing the special “silo”-themed Thermos! Ahhh, memories of lukewarm milk and room-temperature Beefaroni. It’s a miracle I lived through all the potential food poisoning.

However, as I mentioned this past Friday, I recently came upon a huge stash of papers and memorabilia from my school days, while cleaning out my parents’ house. Their attic has been a treasure trove of nostalgia, where I have discovered old school tests and projects, several of my old journals, and even my elementary school lunchbox!

The journals – portions of which I’ll be sharing throughout the summer – were only part of the story.

The folks saved darned near everything

If the strength of a mother and father’s pride in their only child can be measured in the number of school papers and knick knacks they save, my parents are superhuman. Among the additional artifacts unearthed:

  • Poems by Emily Dickenson, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and others that I was required to memorize in high school.
  • A printout of my senior-year computer class project:  a program I designed using BASIC (any geeks remember that??) to keep track of a basketball team’s stats. I actually went back to school the Monday AFTER I graduated to try to fix a bug in the program. I wasn’t going to get any extra credit for it, but it was one of those things that kept annoying me and I had to fix. Never did. >sigh<typewriter 1
  • The first typewriter I ever owned! Yes, we all have to start somewhere.
  • Copies of the high school newspaper, of which I was a staff member and editor-in-chief my senior year. (see below!)
  • A big, pink, construction-paper heart envelope filled with 2 or 3 years’ worth of elementary school Valentine’s Day cards. You know those cheap, dozen-for-a-dollar cards they sell every year? Mom kept them all.
IMG_1259
My mug shows up twice on these front pages…score extra points if you can find me! (click to enlarge)

I still have wonderful memories of working on the student newspaper:  spending days after school typing stories on the old word-processors; cutting and pasting the stories, artwork, and photos together; and being embarrassed during journalism class when our teacher, Mrs. Jencks, told everyone her two younger daughters liked visiting us after school because they thought I looked like Remington Steele.

Not sure why Pierce Brosnan gets to keep his hair these days and I don’t…but I suppose that’s just more proof that life really is not fair.

IMG_1260  IMG_1263

When I first joined the newspaper staff, I started out entering news stories on our clunky Apple II computers. (MS DOS, anyone?)  I also created word puzzles, which I absolutely loved to do. During my senior year, I was not only editor, but also provided some of the cartoons. The school faced serious overcrowding issues; hence, the cover art on the left! (click to enlarge)

When you suddenly realize none of the kids you knew…are kids

A very sobering aspect of these discoveries is that I look at names and faces and need to come to grips with the fact that none of these children knew what was in store for them.

The kids whose names fill that Valentine heart, in particular – barely older than my 6-year-old son – give me pause to reflect on life, death, and fate. April, who went on to marry her childhood sweetheart. Karen, who became our senior class Salutatorian when I became Valedictorian. Chris, who committed suicide before he had a chance to graduate. Eric, who, a mere 2 months after high school graduation, died in a terrible car crash that should never have happened.

I think about Chris and Eric, and I so desperately wish I could somehow go back in time and wrap my arms around them, these little 7-year-old boys, and protect them the same way I would protect my own little dude.

Hold them. Shield them.

Warn them.

But they grew up, as we all do, and made choices they should not have made…and there’s nothing anyone can do to change that.

typewriter 2So I’ll continue sifting through my memories, sharing them here, and hopefully creating new ones, as long as God or Fate allow me to do so. And as I watch my son tap excitedly on my old typewriter, making up stories in much the same way I did – albeit with a dry, 40-year-old ribbon – I pray that he, and all my children, and everyone’s children, may live to see their dreams come true.

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17 thoughts on “Amazing new discovery: My childhood!

  1. Karen Eastlund

    Years back, when I taught preschool, my co-teacher and I would pull out an old Selectric typewriter for the kids to write on. They first would ask us where the screen was, but then they loved to write on it, so I’m sure your son is loving the typewriter. Your shared memories remind me of the treasure trove I have saved for my kids, and the treasures that keep surfacing in my own family. I love to mine these memories…. good stuff! Thanks for sharing your treasures.

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  4. Hi, Matt–the robot poem was indeed lame, but this post is not. At all. I’m doing, as you saw, much the same this this summer–I spent yesterday trawling my own not-that-ancient blog for poems I may have forgotten that I wrote and finding all kinds of nostalgia from my kids’ childhoods, never mind my own–and they are only 13 and 17, AND I keep a family diary with a ton of brief details about our lives (these are the only things I will take when the house is burning down).

    Our experiences are so similar as to be spooky (except that I was not valedictorian, which was probably good for me). Looking at the “alternative” literary magazine that I helped create for Trinity Episcopal HS (The Triangle–get it?) and how scrappy it looked, how proud we were of it–it’s hard for kids to hand-make anything today without comparing it unfavorably with a “produced” product.

    Happy ramblings in the past…and I’m sure we’ll cross paths of the 80’s again this summer!

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to share your thought, Heidi. I’ve had a chance to check out some of your posts, and as you know, I love that moon poem! I think the advent of self-publishing and the ease with which students can “create” a book project almost takes some of the fun away – I loved cutting and pasting pictures, gluing contact paper, and hand-placing the text on the pages. I’ll look forward to reading more of your discoveries!

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