Husband and I have committed the next two weeks to going-through, straightening-up, purging the house of Stuff. I have been anticipating and dreading this time ever since we decided to do it. There’s too much of it in the house, this Stuff, and it is part junk, part treasure. Deciding which is a big job I would kind of like to continue avoiding. I am sustaining myself with fantasies of Order, and some kind of clean efficient spareness that is probably impossible, considering the five of us seem to be part hobbit. I also promised myself a new project: sharing some of what I find here on the blog.
On June 10, 1985, I went shopping with my mom. I bought a bracelet, an O.P. shirt that showed a bit of my midriff, and a fabric-covered blank book with lined pages. I probably wore the shirt twice, if that often, because with the exception of two bikinis the summers on either side of my freshman year of college I did not feel comfortable baring my midriff. I have no memory of the bracelet. The book, however, came back into my life recently, tucked into a box of things my mother purged from her own home.
The summer of 1985 was the Summer of Penicillin, the Summer of Tonsillitis That Would Not Shake. Within 36 hours of ending a ten-day course of antibiotics, without fail, the tiredness and fever and sore throat would return. Finally the doctors gave up on ten-day courses and I swallowed giant pills daily for two months straight: at Confirmation Camp, at Norwegian Language Camp, on vacation, at home. I learned not to gag on them.
The summer of 1985 was also the summer I went on a diet, the summer I (first) dreamed of having the perfect tan, the perfect body, perfect hair. The summer I scared my parents with my dieting and perfectionism. The summer I read a book about a girl with anorexia that for some became a how-to manual but for me was scary enough to be a life-saver.
I wrote in the journal for seven months.
I thought about boys a lot, or at least wrote about them: I still like ____ a lot. But so does X, and Y, and now, since I’ve told Z I like him, she says she does, too. That’s depressing. X and Y are part of W’s group…and I’m not. I don’t have a chance against girls like them.
I turned 13. I wrote about it six days after my birthday, and one day after surgery to have my tonsils removed: Besides that [the boombox] I got a unicorn notebook, bubble bath, bath oil beads, a Perlman tape, a Tears for Fears tape, bath crystals, 4 pairs of earrings, bracelets, paper dolls, three lolypops [sic.], a Butterfinger, a jump rope, a Chinese yo-yo, two purses, and two stuffed animals, 50 dollars, and a 10-dollar gift certificate to Debbie’s Dollhouse.
I got philosophical and sent unwitting messages to my 41-year-old-mother-self:
That (social) part of my life is better now. But I have trouble getting along with mom. I realize that grownups aren’t really perfect. Nobody is perfect...it's just at different times of life people can conceal (and see through other people’s) faults. As a teenager I can see most faults, but I can’t conceal my own very well.
I was mystified: I want to see “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “That was Then, This is Now,” but they’re both rated “R” and Mom’s prejudiced against movies like that. And—I guess all the boys I’ve liked I’ve only liked as friends. I’m confused.
My last entry was January 18, 1986. It was long. Started with an update about a boy, descended into confusion about boys in general. I resolved to talk to my mom about it. And then this: PS—I guess I was worried and insecure about the dance too, and everything was fine then…Bye.
And then blank pages.
The dance was fun, I remember that. And the PS--I still talk to myself that way. The PPS is not actually recorded in the book, even though it is written throughout the pages: Dear 41-year-old-mother-self, Listen more, and be gentle. Maybe most things are fine now, too. Maybe “bye” isn’t necessary anymore.