I’ve been de-cluttering. I know: you thought I might be running around shopping or decking halls or some such, but cleaning out some storage is Christmas-gift-related. That’s all I’ll say about that for now.
But I’ve been uncovering treasures and not-quite-treasures. It was a pretty epic purge, if I do say so myself. In one time capsule, I unearthed ribbons from a preschool gymnastics meet (blue for first, natch), a junior prom souvenir wine glass, and (wait for it:) my first bra. All went into the garbage. . . impressive, no? Those were the easy ones. Tougher to send into recycling were multiple notebooks full of history and French from undergraduate and graduate school. I got rid of about 85% of it. At one point I was hesitating at the recycle bin, but then I saw one of my papers from graduate school. The grade was a B, and I’m not kidding: immediately I flushed with a little bit of rage and a big dose of shame. I could feel my heart beating more quickly. And so I tossed it, and everything else from that class. Phew! That felt good. But here’s some stuff that I’m keeping:
Wow. I had no idea that we’d gone to Chuck E. Cheese so often! Especially surprising since it’s one of my least favorite destinations ever. But there’s something mesmerizing and magical about that draw-you-a-picture machine, isn’t there? I think that we will keep these forever.
This picture requires some notes. It’s from November of 2007, so M was 5, and she meticulously drew all of the items on my grocery list while we walked around Hannaford. Afterward I did my best to label what was what on the back side of the paper. In the top right you’ll see a smiling M. To her left, in the top middle, are two bananas. The bottom-left circle with 4 circles inside represents oranges, and just above and to the right is a little rectangle with a cow on it: that’s butter. By this time I had J, too, and I was a more experienced mama, so I realized that labeling for Future Memories was a good idea. It’s a bummer looking at the old pictures and they’re basically two smudges–like, what the heck was that?
And here’s where you can tell that I needed a writing outlet: I documented our early sibling struggles in a preface to a compilation of sticker charts that I had created for M.
That’s right: each of these smiley faces represents a day in which M refrained from smacking J upside the head or grabbing J’s stuff from right out of her hands. Let’s just say, every day was not a sticker day. But it worked for a while, at least.
Speaking of the poor, abused younger sister, what about J’s stuff? We have so much stuff for M, the first daughter (and first granddaughter on her Dad’s side). Did we save anything of J’s?
Aw, c’mon! You know I’m kidding. Here are two well-documented pieces from a particularly formative time in the artist’s development, what I like to call her The Sun Looks Like A Spider period:
On the right, you’ll see a portrait of me holding J’s hand. A portion of this work of art has been torn away, and while there exists hearsay evidence that it’s because another resident artist used the space to scrawl, “I hat you!” However, this cannot be proven, since the ripped-off paper is not extant. On the left, you’ll see the artist’s very first attempt at writing her name.
Speaking of formative artistic periods, this painting is an early work by another up-and-coming young artist:
This piece is by my little brother, John Szlasa, who got an MA in Fine Arts from Yale and will soon be appearing in the American Academy of Arts and Letters Invitational Exhibition. In case you aren’t familiar with the Academy, this is an unbelievably big deal. A seriously huge honor. As in, possibly I should pull this out of the cardboard box that it was in with my moldy 7th grade Home Ec cross stitch (trashed), because if I keep it in climate control and find the right buyer, maybe we can retire, living on this! And in case you think I don’t know art when I see it, I do have five of his other paintings hanging around the house–I’d forgotten about this one.
We had tons of cards, and I think this one may get tossed, but I wanted to point out the adorable mouse choir singing in front of a penis house:
Wait, what? You don’t see it? Maybe I’m getting a little punchy from inhaling mold spores.
Ah, and finally, never to be tossed:
The cache of letters between Cute W and me when we were both abroad for a semester. Those were the days before email, folks. One of the girls started to take an interest in these, and I successfully maneuvered them away from her, saying that they were probably full of mush. I have no idea, really: I haven’t read them in at least twenty years. And I didn’t open any of them for fear of getting sucked in. I have too many other boxes to sort.