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Closing up shop

My bookshelves are empty. Out in the hallway, a huge stack of boxes fills the space along the wall between what is my door now and what was my door up until 1996. Soon, this door won’t be mine either.

A lot of things I thought I would want to keep initially I’ve decided to leave here, for Connor, and for the new baby. My collection of Disney movies on VHS, for example. And my stuffed animals. I don’t know if I assumed I was taking those or not, but it occurs to me that Connor is the one who plays with them. It will be special for him to have something of mine when I’m gone.

Several of the books I thought I’d be keeping are staying behind, too, such as a book called Everyone Poops that my aunt Bev gave to my mom as a gag gift. I thought it was hilarious and kept the book, but now I think I’ll leave it and see if Faye thinks Connor would like it. It’s a book about pooping, and Connor’s an Aubrey; how could he not like it? I’m also leaving the Popeye film book given to us by Pop-Pop, Mom’s father. The book is old and worn and stuck together with duct tape, and besides, it belongs here anyway.

I threw away a few things I’d been keeping for awhile, like my calculus binder from high school. “Mr. Barnes is always right,” proclaims the front cover, crediting “Confused Calculus Student” for the brilliant quote. Next to that, “I will try harder,” attributed to Boxer. I hated AP Calculus, but I loved AP English, and I knew it at the time, and I suppose that’s why I was putting Animal Farm quotes and paraphrases on what was supposed to be a math folder. If I really liked math I would have written some brilliant formula that described the shape of a lightbulb (or perhaps Einstein’s head); but to this day my best mathematical joke is as follows: “The cos of leia is a gentle curve.” And you’ll only get that one if you know that my main Internet nick is cosleia. And that I’m a girl.

Underneath my bookshelf in the area that is too short for books but just tall enough to be annoying, I found my old jewelry boxes. One’s wooden with the lid handle broken off, and the other is probably wood too, covered in green vinyl with a mock-sewn diamond pattern notched in. When you open it, the lid is pale yellow with a smattering of gold stars, and there are fifteen unequal fabric cubbyholes in the base for treasures.

And indeed, opening these little chests is like opening a treasure box. I was wondering before I looked inside why I held on to them, but now I know.

In the green jewelry box I found my very first present from a boy, a small three-stone faux diamond pendant necklace. The “diamonds” have turned the color of ash, and the necklace itself is tarnished and broken off at one end. Slightly bent and still sporting two small pieces of Scotch tape is the card, red with holly clusters in both top corners and a sprawling Christmas tree in the center. The card reads: “To: Heather From: Eddie,” in left-handed cursive script.

Johnnie Edward Benedict, Jr. was my very first friend after my very first move. I began my life living in a trailer and going to private school in Lexington, but when I was seven we moved to a house, and after a year we couldn’t afford the private school anymore. I’d never ridden the bus before, let alone attended a public school, so it was a rather striking change.

We got on the bus our first day of school–I was headed to fourth grade, AJ to third, and Ben to first–with more than a little trepidation…and what should happen first but some rowdy kids yelling “Ha, ha, the Brady Bunch!” I suppose when you’re stupid, it’s hard to come up with good insults. Immediately depressed by the lack of friendliness, I groused to myself about how these public school kids couldn’t count and tried to find a seat.

A boy with rather wavy blond hair, green-blue eyes, and a hawkish nose let me sit next to him that day, and it wasn’t long before Eddie and I were best friends. He not only comforted me and joined me in making fun of the lame-ness of the bullies’ taunts, but he later introduced me to such things as Michael Jackson, Madonna, the Beach Boys, and Super Mario Bros. We spent fourth and fifth grade together–even during the brief stint where I was quasi-dating a smart-aleck named Anthony Bruner–and remained fast friends. I met Melissa Christopher then too–she was also on our bus route–and the three of us formed a vanguard against Pretty Much Everyone Else. (We even started a club, called WBLF–We’ll Be Loyal Friends.) In retrospect, our coalition probably was the beginning of the end of my social life in public school, but back then I didn’t care…I had people with me (Eddie, Melissa, Willie Costley, and a few more girls: Callie Lewis and Vicky Lancaster, to name a couple. I remember Eddie once wanted us all to have nicknames; I don’t remember anyone’s except Vicky’s, which was “The Fly” because of her eyes).

Of course, now that I’m waxing sentimental I’m checking up on Classmates.com and Reunion.com to see what all my friends from high school are up to. (Kenneth Burdine has two kids!) It’s hard to find people from middle school or elementary school, which is a shame. Fortunately, the friend I remember most from all of secondary school, Noelle Scuderi (Mitchell), and I still keep in touch. In fact, she and her husband John are planning on coming to my wedding. I’m so excited–I haven’t seen them since 1998, when they stopped in for a visit on their way down to see Noelle’s parents. My hair was much shorter then :>

There’s all kinds of other stuff in these jewelry boxes: plastic beads; an odd orange light bulb; screws; a hair clip; skee-ball tickets from Showbiz Pizza Place; a small Gumby toy; a laminated picture of me at around six sitting next to my mother when she got her drivers license renewed one time; a silver jingle bell bracelet that almost still fits; one of the original No Dogs that Dad and I made by hand–cutting individual pieces of aluminum, drilling holes in them, sawing out the legs with the band saw, and then sanding them down–in a small leather case that I made; and a leather wallet that used to belong to my great uncle Lewis, Dad’s uncle on his mother’s side, filled with paper money from when he was in Europe during World War II. Those last two items are special treasures, and if nothing else I’ll keep them. I don’t want the jewelry boxes themselves anymore, though they served their purposes well in their time. I really do have Too Much Stuff(TM). But there are some things I feel compelled to keep, things that connect me to my past and my family.

Speaking of which, it’s about time I resumed my efforts to drag those boxes downstairs.