Spiral Unbound

I spent last weekend cleaning out my Mother's attic.  It was painful in every sense of the word.  

First of all, my Mom's house was boiling - 78 degrees when I got there - I managed to bump it down to 74 eventually, but still very warm.  The attic, on the other hand, was cold.  And that was fine.  But I kept popping between hot and cold, and my body was really confused.  

The attic itself was very dirty, and full of cobwebs, etc.  Then I started kicking up dust.  I spent a lot of time in awkward hunched over postures, on my knees, carrying heavy, sharp, bulky, dirty boxes, bins, etc. down a ladder.  I ended up taking a misstep off the ladder once and landed on the ground.  Thankfully, it was a short fall.  I have bruises and scrapes, and I'm finally not that sore.

And of course, sorting through 50 plus years of emotional debris is, as you can imagine, hard.  I got rid of things that a more clever woman could clean up and sell on eBay or Facebook Marketplace.  I don't have that kind of time, space, or energy.   I did open each box to ascertain the contents - mostly so I could know how heavy, fragile, etc. the box was.  Namely, could I throw it down, or did I have to carry it?  Hint, I did way more carrying than throwing.  Both my bassinet and sister's crib were still up there.  Whyyyyyy?

I also wanted to make sure that there weren't any huge boxes full of money, gold ingots, rubies... there were not.

But here's what there was.  One box was full of detritus from my middle school and high school years.  I knew I needed to be mindful of what I kept, so I didn't get too deep into the box.  I took three things.  A script I wrote for Odyssey of the Mind in 1991ish.  A quiz I failed in AP US History.  A letter.

The script was just nostalgia.  I'm still friends with everyone who was on that team - at least, Facebook - they live all over the world these days.  Just saying.   The quiz, on which I made a 20, I kept because I gave a super smart ass, but also funny response on one of the questions - I attributed the growth in population during a specific timeframe to "long, boring winters".  Wrong, but not without some merit.  I posted it on Facebook, tagged Dr. Terry, who gave us the quiz, and we all got a good laugh at my foolishness.

But it's really the letter I want to talk about.

Once upon a time, in Middle School, I made a friend.  We were, I think, in the same home room?  If not the same "pod".  Like, in 6th grade, we had A, B, C, D pods - and each pod had 2 or three classes.  So I was in 6B-2.  7th, I think was 7C-1, and I think 8th was 8C-2 - look, I don't really remember, but Jonathan was in 6B... something.  We ended up in nearly every class together and frankly, at the time, I had a huge crush on him.  I don't believe he ever crushed on me.  I knew the girls he liked, and they were nothing like me.  But we became friends, due to exposure and proximity in alphabet, and similar mindset.   

Over the years, my crushes would wax and wane, but I grew to love Jonathan.  Mostly in a brotherhood-of-man way.  I ended up dating one of his older brother's best friends (and his friend as well), and that probably killed any chance of being anything other than a friend.  He kissed my cheek once, another time, I bit his kneecap.  In terms of physical affection, that was it.

But I adored him.  He got me into Odyssey of the Mind.  He called me one night and asked if I wanted to go to Iowa.  That's where the OM championships were held that year, had we won.  Spoiler alert - we didn't get to Iowa.  I have been since then, and it was worth the wait.

Anyway - in the summer between our Sophomore and Junior year, Jonathan went to Governor's Honors Program - a summer-long session at a college at Valdosta State offered to rising Juniors and Seniors who were gifted in a specific subject - they could spend the summer in classes and surrounded by other excellent students.   I applied twice, rejected twice.  It's fine.  These things happen.  But Jonathan got in on his first attempt, in art.  He was, and is, a gifted artist.

Anyway, the letter arrived at some point after July 4th, but before school started - so, who knows?  

The letter was at the very top of the box, and I knew who had written it as soon as I saw it.  His handwriting was distinctive, and apparently, my brain stored that font.  It is not a love letter.  It is a letter of love, sort of.  It is written on a Sunday, over a period of fits and starts throughout the day.  He talks about showering and eating breakfast, paining and .  Concerts, jam sessions.  At one point, he comes back having just attended a seminar about date rape, where he tells me that 88% of men surveyed said they'd enjoy raping someone.  He talks about meeting the governor, Zell Miller, who liked his paintings.

He calls me his comrade and close friend.  He refers to a letter I wrote him where I talk about some July 4th thing that I did.  I'm almost certain we went to a party at my parents' friends parents house.  I was certainly working at Harry's - he references it.  He tells me I'm a creative-minded person - like him.  We clearly have some history, and he cares enough to tell me what's going on with him, and wants to catch up on my summer when he gets home.  The end of the letter has been eaten by time, silverfish, etc.  So it ends abruptly by default.

Jonathan and I were in classes together for all of HS.  He was an artist, I was a writer. He ended up at Columbia - (a definite f*** you to the fact that all his older siblings went to Princeton), where he studied art.   He lives in New York city now.  He married a dancer - they're both professional artists.  No kids, at least, to my knowledge.  His big project at the moment is that he uses the digital billboards in the city - the ones in the subway, etc. to display political messages:

He uses a dark film with transparent lettering to place over the screens - this is an example.

Anyway - those were the three things I kept - it was hard to get rid of scripts, sheet music, and dozens of things I didn't even look at.  But it's good to be me, to be alive, to have an interesting past, and to be loved.

And it's good to have the attic cleaned out.

That's the big one.



Christopher said…
That was a big one. And while Jonathan is an amazing person, and I think his art is really cool, it was the trip down memory lane that really got me. And they're not even my memories. I understand the power of finding old, forgotten things that really take you back.
And that was a brilliant answer on the AP History quiz. On a school trip to Colonial Williamsburg we had to fill in a sheet of questions. One of them was "Why did colonial people have so many children?" My answer, "Because so many of them died" wasn't nearly as good as yours.