I’ve come to pack up my childhood into two Rubbermaid bins and three cardboard boxes.
I set bins by the bed, that quilted cocoon in which I dreamed little-girl dreams next to the snuggling stuffed mice. I shift my weight, wonder where to start. Hundred-year-old wood floors creak underfoot.
Clock rewinds, and I’m that fourth-grader with hair trimmed above the ears. I pull the Pac-Man diary with the broken lock from under the mattress. I turn to February 28, read words: “MASH had its last show tonight.”
And: “I played ATARI. Flipped the scoreboard on Space Invaders.”
And this: “Mom had coffee at Elva’s. I went, too.”
And downstairs on this packing-away day — 27 years later — Elva’s obituary is on Mom’s kitchen table.
In a blink.
In a vapor, time.
My childhood room is like a time capsule, held in dusty captivity by my unwillingness to dismantle memories. It’s a life wallpapered in French horns and Garfield and Smurfs and Scott Baio. But that’s the surface, these decorations on shelves and pictures Scotch-taped to closet doors.
For the wooden drawers cradle painful parts.
I find the yellow, wide-ruled Mead notebook entombed in the desk, under graduation cards. I had penciled pages of pain. “What a worthless thing, self-pity …,” I wrote. “Why do I feel this way?”
And this: “I feel like I’ve let the whole world down.”
I cross-check journal dates with my report card. Yes, yes, that’s when my grades dropped. I see that I missed nine days of school in one quarter alone.
I had drawn a smiley face in the yellow notebook, had given myself a pep talk: “Cheer up!”
I hold old words in even-older hands. Want to cry for the hurt of a girl I don’t really remember anymore. I think I will toss the notebook, keeping only the Pac-Man Book of Secrets, with its safe, happy stories about recess and school lunch.
The girls have come; they are squealing joy, straight up the wooden staircase. “Is it time, Mommy?” I slap the notebook closed, slip it into the drawer.
“Yes! It’s time!” I clap my hands, grab the camera, wear the smile.
They each have one bin, each take turns collecting Mama’s things.
“Was this special to you, Mommy?” The little one holds up a stuffed elephant, wants to know the story about how I got that from a friend at a third-grade slumber party.
Oldest daughter asks for the Monchhichi and a doll named Cecile with dust-crusted hair.
“You know, Mom?” she says, with hand on hip. “It’s really not a good idea for a person to watch Toy Story before we do something like this.” Because they really want to save everything.
They rescue a doll with missing arms, another with a lazy eye, another with marker-painted scalp. They keep the Girl Scout sash, 4H pins, jewelry box, Holly Hobbie.
Bins overflow with whimsy.
It’s only half a story, really.
They’ve gone to play now. I’m in a room that has been emptied of a former self.
Except for the entombed words.
I tape boxes shut, snap lids on bins, open single drawer to rescue single yellow notebook.
I open the sunny cover once more. I want memories to burn in just a bit, for this final viewing of words that feel like thorns. I’ll grieve this for a moment, then bury hurt in a garbage-bag vault.
I flip pages, am caught by surprise: I had quoted Scripture to myself. My memory has betrayed me, for I thought that I didn’t trust God at all. Yet I wrote these words: “Rest in the Lord. Wait patiently for Him.” Maybe there was a mustard seed after all?
I had drawn a picture of Jesus and wrote: “Accept all things about myself — good and bad.”
The voice of my pained youth speaks to the voice of my middle-aged life. “Accept all things. Good and bad.”
I close the notebook, stand up. By the radiator, the big black garbage bag sits gape-mouthed, hungry.
But instead, I turn away. Because I’m holding a piece of the story.
I yank tape from a sealed box, holding things I’ve decided to bring home to the farm. And I slip in a yellow, spiral-bound notebook.
Submitted as part of L.L. Barkat’s “On, In and Around Mondays” series — an invitation to write from where we are.