Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Sorting junk turns out to be really hard. Of course, it isn’t because the stuff is worth anything. It’s because it has all these feelings attached to it. I’m a tosser by nature, married to a keeper. For Bob this process has been exhausting and difficult. Every hour of sorting is like personal archeology. Some of it fun, like when he finds a notebook where he doodled in the margins and the doodles are way cooler than the notes. Sometimes we find stuff that’s painful. Sometimes I find something that makes me realize that I have edited my memories. That things were more complicated, or darker than I remember.

I like to throw things away because I like to shed my past. I take a perverse pleasure in getting rid of books, personal records, my S.A.T. scores and my report cards from my junior year of high school. With those report cards go my memories of my utter lack of compassion for the fat girl who was on the fringes of the group I hung with. She was annoying. She misjudged the tone of conversations. She was fat. She never looked anyone in the eye and when she talked to someone she would stare at the top of their head; a characteristic we made ruthless fun of between ourselves when she wasn’t there. Now I wonder what she was avoiding when she never made eye contact? What she didn’t want to see in our faces. I don’t have to wonder much.

She got pregnant after high school. I lived in a nearly segregated white town (there were two black families who had high school age kids. They were accepted because they were utter novelties, and we expected them to act completely white except for when they were black in ways that we approved of or that entertained us.) The fat girl’s boyfriend was black, although we never met him and I don’t even know if ‘boyfriend’ is an accurate term. He got her pregnant. Maybe she lived with him, maybe not. I was in college. Of the five of us, three were in college. One was married and working. And she was a single mom with a mixed-raced child in a small racist southern Ohio town. (One or two of the kids I went to school with probably had fathers who were in the Klan.)

I wanted to leave that town and she represented everything I feared and hated. And I hated her for it. I’m very happy to throw away a lot of the memorabilia from my high school.


Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

This just brought a tear to my eye. Like, nostalgically or something. :-/

August 02, 2006 2:33 AM  
Blogger Responsible Artist said...

My children are always asking what my SAT scores were so they can prove who is smarter. But I don't think they gave them to me--else I threw them out after dropping out of college the first time. The thing is--throwing away one slip of paper while bringing vats of stuff into the house isn't an even exchange for me. eBay is the only thing that keeps me from being one of those women who dies in her house and has so much stuff in it the firemen need Jaws of Life to pry open the front door.

August 02, 2006 10:29 PM  
Blogger Beth Adele said...

I had the same girl in my class, only it was her older sister who got pregnant before graduation, and she had a nervous laugh and seemed to shrink into herself more and more every passing year. My most vivid memory of her is seeing her walk beside the building, head tucked into her chest, alone at recess.

August 03, 2006 9:41 AM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

The nervous laugh...I remember that laugh. (It says, 'please don't be offended by me.)

August 03, 2006 9:52 AM  

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