The 40-year old Box
For as long as we’ve rented a storage space (a lo-o-o-o-o-ng time) I’ve nagged at Dan that all those boxes and boxes of papers belong to him. He’s finally emptying it out, and he comes home with this one box and says, “This is yours.” To his credit he doesn’t even smirk as he places it on my office floor.
It is all I possess, pretty much, of my life between 1976 and 1980, and a few things I’d saved before then. In it is the first book ever given to me, a Christmas present from Santa Claus when I was six. A story for every day of the year, that I read in its entirety that day. In my mother’s face I see surprise, a light going on. She likes to read!
There are letters beginning in 1976, written to me on Northumberland Street, Kaercher Street, letters c/o Jon G. in Berkeley (all saying, in essence, come home, including one of the few my mother ever wrote me, and a couple from my darling, then-disco-dancing sister Patty), to Laurel Avenue in Bellevue, Shafer Road in Coraopolis, Seminary Road in Alexandria, Newton Place in D.C. I moved 11 times between ages 19 and 30. I was a restless soul.
There are heart-rending letters from my old friend Dave G. after his move to New York City, love letters from guys who broke my heart, great letters from girlfriends trying to stay in touch. A few letters from people I was obviously close to but who I can’t recall. Janet? Was there a Janet G. I kinda sorta recall from high school? There’s a letter I wrote to my father when I was 27 that I obviously never gave him. There’s a carbon copy of a typewritten letter on rice paper from me to a collection agency that actually says, “There is no way in God’s green earth that I am going to pay this bill.” I was one tough cookie.
There is a folder full of bad poetry, and maybe some not so bad. There’s a press pass from when I went to the World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women, Copenhagen, 14-30 July 1980, which was issued to me thanks to Washington Woman magazine. An unused role of Tri-X and of Kodacolor film. And a copy of an e.e. cummings poem I always loved, I still love.
So what do I do with this box? I keep callously saying to Dan, “Throw all that stuff out! If you haven’t looked at it in 20 years, you can’t possibly need it.” Yet the box is still here on my floor. Film I will never use and all.