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.
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<
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
So 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.