The Second to Last Box

For years, I thought I had nothing but one box in my parents attic. Well, nothing but a set of china I inherited from one aunt and a rug I inherited from another, and one box.

Today, my mother informed me that my father’s caregiver/her helper had turned up another box with my name on it. I’m going home tomorrow, and I could have just chucked the box in my trunk, but I decided that I should open it and see if there was anything I could easily decide to toss before I left.

The box was a mishmash of stuff—the most recent items being from my second year of school librarianship (2005) and the earliest from 7th grade.

The 7th grade item was a play I had co-written with my best friend. Titled A Missing Banana, it was performed by my friend, me, and a handful of our fellow Girl Scouts to the delight and/or bewilderment of primary school students in a gymnasium on a Saturday morning. My most vivid memory of working on the play is that my troop leader somehow spilled green dog shampoo on my pink princess dress, which my sister had worn as a bridesmaid. My sister had spent a lot on the dress, and even though she had no plans to wear it again, she was annoyed that my mother had let me wear it as a costume.

What I was surprised to find was a writing portfolio from 9th grade. I’d been required to write in cursive from 3rd grade-6th grade, and in 9th grade, I still hadn’t broken the habit.

I had known at the time that my teachers were sadistic to require me to write in cursive when it was obvious that I would never be able to do it well. Looking at the portfolio today, I realized that they were also masochistic, because they had to try to read it.

I was carrying the folder to the recycling bin, and I stopped walking before I had consciously decided to. I’m not ready to let this go, I realized. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to decipher it, but I decided to bring it home.

Most of the other items were from college. I had saved some notes from my mentor and playwriting professor. She died in 2008, and I still her so much. I got a lump in my throat reading her instructions for our tiny class to run itself on a day she had to be absent.

There were some pages from a statewide journal listing the research topics of my graduating class in library school. Trash.

The items from my 2nd year at my first school job were a newspaper clipping of a profile of me the local paper had done, and a note from the superintendent. I remember he wrote me a positive note after the profile was published.

I didn’t read either because I knew they would make me sad. Two years later, I’d be chewed up and spit out by that school. The superintendent would write me another note on the same stationery telling me it had been a hard decision whether or not to overturn the actions of my principal—he backed the principal—and thanking me for my “many contributions.”

It turned out for the best, as I moved on to bigger and better things (and that state froze teacher salaries and defunded schools) but it still stings a little.

I did find a few things to toss—a program for a play I attended that I hadn’t even liked, for example. I found more to donate—baby dolls, a model airplane, my favorite Barbie outfits. I’m not sure why I kept Day to Night Barbie and Crystal Barbie’s getups with out saving the dolls, but they were there carefully folded and wrapped. Perhaps the dolls would not fit in the box.

I had saved the Barbie clothes for a daughter who would never be born. And that’s why my mom lets me get away with leaving that last box, because that’s all it is. Things I had hoped to pass on.

A cousin is coming to get my aunt’s china. It’s beautiful, but you can’t put it in the microwave. I need to ask my mom about that rug. I haven’t lived in a place with space for it since I left my first school. Maybe my cousin will take it when she comes to get the china.

The writing though, is coming home with me.

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