And, lo and behold, there was a treasure trove of stuff that matters—stuff that I swore had been tossed out, by design or by accident, years before.
I already knew where to find my labels for file folders, business envelopes and blank cards because I use all of them. But I didn’t expect to find childhood drawings more than 50 years old; love letters from years during and right after college, and my first circus contract.
The drawings were in an oversized manila envelope that my mother had saved.
Most of the contents went into the recycle pile, but I couldn’t resist keeping several yellowed, blue-lined sheets that show off my perfect cursive writing.
And, there’s the picture above. I was six years old when I made this, and no doubt the teacher wrote the poem on
a blackboard for everyone to copy. But the writing is entirely mine, as are the red crayoned hearts with those
kite tail tendrils.
Another large packet held love letters from three different beaus, all older than me, two of them irascible newspapermen who didn’t much like anyone. But because they liked me, and really liked me, I couldn’t help but feel special in their arms.
Yet, these were also men proficient at mind games—vowing to call and then not doing so, or confirming a time to meet and then not showing. Reading their missives, I know now that I wasn’t imagining their love. But today, I can also see that they were incapable of making commitments, although the letters indicate otherwise.
There were also notes from someone else, a boy who was sweeter, and closer to my age.
He was ready for the relationship I thought I wanted, and absolutely the most mature. But I knew how to play games, too, and wounded him so deeply that I will regret the way I treated him for the rest of my life. This remorse is still so raw that when I came upon his notes, I recycled every one of them. Perhaps because the friendship happened around the time I attended Clown College, I found my first circus contract in the same packet. The gig paid $175 per week, and now I remember that I thought I was going to be rich.
Then I found two plastic containers with lime green lids, both involving my daughter.
The first was from her time in Daisy, the Girl Scouts group for kindergarteners. There was the uniform, a blue apron neatly folded and replete with eight iron-on flower petals in the center. Snuggled beside it was a green vest with badges for marching in a parade; visiting a children’s museum, and being a responsible pet owner. On top of it all was a certificate welcoming her to the next age level of scouting. But we never made that tier because we moved away.
This box is hers. She can do whatever she wants with it, but I hope she’ll save the contents for the children she may have, maybe for them to play dress-up games.
The other lime topped case held the happiest discovery of all.
There were my girl’s first stuffed animals—a pastel pink and blue plaid bear, and a yellow and red kitten, both sewn
by hand from the softest of fabrics. Neither have buttons nor plastic, since I had been warned that babies could pick those off, put them in their tiny mouths, and choke. A tightly tied up plastic bag was underneath, and that’s where
the clothes were.
It’s not just any outfit.
Here was the ensemble my daughter had on when she was first handed to me in a cramped hotel lobby in China. Included were the tiniest of red fabric shoes with white rubber soles; crotchless yellow leggings, and two tops, one fuzzy and pink, the other a mock turtle neck with frolicking baby pandas.
This box belongs to my daughter, too.
But along with the childhood sketches, love letters and circus agreement, I’ll be keeping it.