I wasn’t looking for them, but I found them all the same: treasures from an earlier time, almost another lifetime, hidden where only I would be likely to find them.
You know how it is. Sometimes when you pack your things to move, you grab a stack of papers and stuff them in a box. The box moves with you, but then it gets set in a quiet, out-of-the-way place. You move again and the box comes with you, but you still never get around to unpacking it. Eventually, you forget what you originally put in that box.
I have five such boxes filled with paper of various kinds—papers I wrote for school (from elementary school through graduate school), short stories and plays and poems I’ve written, scrapbooks from different times in my life, baseball scorecards, photographs and other things I used to tape to my wall when I was in college, and dozens of other memories, some of which I had long forgotten. I saw the Big Red Machine in action in Chicago—Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and the rest, facing Fergie Jenkins in Wrigley Field. I wrote a paper about schizophrenia for my health class in eighth grade. I attended Boys State. Such memories!
I saved odd headlines from the newspaper, but when Jay Leno showed odd headlines on his show, I couldn’t remember what I had done with my collection. Here are three of my favorites:
“Diary of a Semi-Comatose 16-Year-Old, in Living”
“Asian Woman Pastor Wheaton Speak”
…and my favorite, about a high school volleyball game: “St. Francis Handles Wheaton Christian Girls”!
I was looking for a certain short story I wrote when I was in high school. I found many short stories, some of which I don’t even remember writing. Here is an example. I know I wrote this story; it’s in my own unmistakable handwriting. I don’t remember when I wrote it or why:
THE BIKE RIDE
It was a dark, cold, and cloudy day when I left my house in town for a bicycle ride into the country. The charming thing about where I live is that both the scenery of the country and the comfort of the city are nearby. A bike ride to see the autumn colors, as I was doing, took only five minutes. I crossed the river, pedaled up the long hill, passed the church and the cemetery, turned right, and rode the smooth country road for about a quarter of a mile. Then I made another right turn, and I was in the middle of a beautifully-colored grove of trees.
I stood and looked at the yellows, the reds, the browns and greens, and I listened to the cheerful chirps of birds gathering in preparation for migration. No passing car disturbed my peace; no loud noise scared the birds into flight. I felt warmth on my back. Looking up, I saw that the sun had broken through the clouds and was lighting up the sky. I unfastened my jacket to let in the warmth.
After my visit with the trees was complete, I turned and rode back into town. First I traveled down the smooth country road, then turned left, rode past the cemetery, past the church, coasted down the long hill and across the river, and stopped in front of my house. Looking up, I saw that it had become cloudy again. It was also cold again. Shivering, I put the bike in the garage and went into the house.
And that’s the way life was, in another time and another place. J.