Who I Am

Last night I went up to mom’s “real quick” to look for a pair of old dancing shoes I’d worn in a high school play. When I’m looking through closets, I never get away “real quick” and I ended up finding 2 boxes (which I condensed to one) full of my stuff, a bag full of the scraps from the prom dress I made my Junior Year of High School, a pair of old boots, my kindergarten promotion certificate… and the list goes on. I hauled my boxes out of the closet and into my car -I honestly had NO idea I’d left them in my old closet. Once home, I sat on the couch and opened a box marked “etc.” which could only mean one thing: it was a box full of old trinkets I’d end up throwing out.

Of course I meant it to say “ect” but I was around 12 when I wrote it, so I was probably feeling pretty good about the fact that I even new what “ect” meant.
I found the very first (and only) newspaper I’d ever written for:
My very first column:

My very first published poem:

Golly, I must have thought it was SO good. The box was full of my writing from 6th grade. After 6th grade, I entered puberty and lost all sense of myself. After puberty came adolescence which brought on a whole slew of “finding myself” journeys. Funny: if I had just stumbled across this box, all of my problems would have been solved. Then again: I wouldn’t have had to endure my black nail polish phase, which I actually LOVED. Journeys are never all bad. Through my many journeys, I discovered things about myself I thought I’d hate… but ended up loving. For example: somewhere around 10th grade, I realized that I couldn’t match clothing if my life depended on it. I couldn’t put an organized outfit together. I couldn’t do my make up well. I couldn’t do cute hairstyles.
And all at once, I completely gave up.
I literally rolled OUT of bed, into some clothes I’d picked up at a second hand store, and walked to school. I didn’t even TOUCH my hair before leaving. Make up? Please. I gave up on the idea. I was happier that day than I’d been in a LONG time, and thus began The Phase of Weird Clothing and Stomping on Lady-Likeness. THAT was a fun phase. Here was me before that phase, though I’m sure you wouldn’t be able to tell unless I pointed it out… I was actually TRYING to match:

I still have those glasses somewhere…
That picture was on the tip top of my goals I accomplished in Primary:
I always worked side-by-side with my best friend on goals like that. Well, we worked side-by-side with EVERYTHING when we were in 6th grade. We even went through a cross-stitch phase together. I have to ask… Tia, do you still have YOUR half?
I found a few of these from Tia and some others:

Although this one was my favoritest note find:

Wouldn’t YOU like to know what it said? Well it was a heartfelt confession of undying love… next to it was another note from the same boy, telling me he DID NOT like me.
Ah, fickle school yard romance.
At that age, I ended up with a bad bout of shingles. I had a “fun” habit of never crying because I thought I was too strong to cry. I also worried like NO other, and I still do. But back then, I didn’t think to pray and ask for help, so I was miles of grateful when my Aunt Julie Clifford gifted me with worry dolls. I found a little bag full of worry dolls. I used to talk to them before bed, tell them all my worries, and then tuck them under my pillow before drifting off. I haven’t had shingles since, so there MUST be something there…
Around this time, I started getting really into writing. I had my newspaper, and my sixth grade teacher -my favorite grade school teacher -encouraged me to keep writing. I wonder if Mrs. Nelson is on facebook. I’ll hafta search. Anyway, she asked the class to write a poem about one of the biomes. I chose the tundra. And I got really into it…

I still remember my teacher handing my poem back, looking me in the eyes and saying, “Girl, you are a WRITER.” I took the poem home to my parents who were equally encouraging. Later on in that year, we were asked to write a short story. Most kids handed in a 2 or 3 page story… again, I got REALLY into it. By the end of the assignment, I had 11 hand-written pages. I made a neat cover for my story and lovingly stapled it all together:

My first book. As silly as the story was, it was a huge accomplishment for me. I realized while I was writing it that I LOVED writing. I mean, I could have done it all day! My imagination ran rampant while I composed the story. I wrote for days and days, and when I was done I was hungry for more writing… so apparently I kept going…
And going…

Half of my ETC box was full of writing. My research paper on Sweden was extensive for an 11-year old:

I even made a Swedish cookbook:

There’s a construction paper and crayon flag in there too, but I’m mildly suspicious that you’re sick of seeing pictures.
That year I also won an essay contest titled “What America Means to Me.” My essay won first in my district and second in State. When I received the news on how my essay had done, I was happy. My Dad sat me down, told me he was proud of me, and then asked me not to get a big head.
“A big head?” I asked.
“Don’t get to thinking too well of yourself to the point that it’s bad for you. People don’t like it,” he explained. I had a hard time connecting my essay winning a contest with The Big Head concept. I was too young to understand. I was just happy, and that was the end of it.
When did I quit seriously writing? When I actually started caring what people thought of my writing. When I was 11, I didn’t care. I just did it because it made me happy. I think I was smarter when I was 11 than when I was (am) 26.
There were funeral programs and wedding announcements. I always saved things like that. They seemed so important. The funny thing is: I still save them.

I saved little gifts from my friends and cousins. The minute I picked this little canvas cube up, I instinctively shook it. I had to laugh at myself. I remembered I used to keep my teeth in it when I lost them. Of course I don’t NOW, but my hands didn’t know that. They only knew that they loved shaking the canvas cube and hearing my teeth rattle around in it. Of course the cube came from Tia:

There was a certificate from my cousin Kimmy. Her mother nursed me at the same time she was nursing her own daughter. My mom had been in an accident and couldn’t nurse me. Hence, BOSOM buddies.

Best. Certificate. Ever.

Who would have thought you could contain an entire personality in one shoe box? What a find! The dance shoes I originally went looking for, however? Vanished. That’s one mystery that may never be solved.


  1. I just adore that that note says Mmmm Bop on it. I’m pretty sure I had one folded exactly like that, wRitTeN iN WoRdS LiKe tHiS.

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