Friday, August 26, 2016

8-Minute Memoir: Letters

I saw this over on Life of Bon and figured this 100 days project was as good a time as any to write some of these myself. (The original, with all the prompts, is by Ann Dee Ellis.) I'm going to jump in and out of this when the topic strikes--this one, on "little things," totally did. Oh and full disclosure, while I wrote the first draft in 8 minutes (maybe 10?), I totally went back and edited it because I can't help myself. 

I am sitting cross-legged on the bed in our first apartment. The walls are yellow, which we painted one summer afternoon before going to a party in Brooklyn. It’s not the exact color we wanted, but it would do. We’d only live there for another two years, anyway.

All over the bed are the contents of one of my many “memory boxes.” It’s a childish name for an almost-30 year old to use, but it’s what my mom called them when she bought them for me when I was in middle school, in high school. When I would stuff them full with folded up notes and movie ticket stubs and pages ripped from magazines. My teenage years, captured and catalogued.

We are packing up this apartment to move into a new house. One that’s not too far away, but where we imagine we will make a life. One where we’ll say, this is where we bought our first baby home and where we’ll paint the walls bright colors and marvel at the lack of outlets in the bathrooms and take too long to hang photos.

I’m emptying the contents of one of those memory boxes. The one with all the letters. The envelopes are white, with blue and red and white Air Mail stripes on the sides. You’ve probably seen them. The insides are scribbled in blue and black ink, and sometimes, from one particular pair of sisters, written in markers and covered in stickers. They are pages pulled from notebooks, they are written on graph paper, they are on loose leaf paper that you have to make sure are arranged in the right order.

The collection dates sometime between 1997 and, maybe, 2002. They’re the letters I’d write back and forth with my friends from Italy after having spent a summer with them—letters we’d write before we really used email, though there are a few of those too, printed out, with an AOL address at the top. This was before you could send a text or a WhatsApp message, before FaceTime and Facebook.

I’d come home from school, pick the letter out from the pile of mail on the kitchen counter. Sometimes I wouldn’t open it right away, delaying the feeling it brought because it would take 10 minutes to read, and maybe months to get another one. Eighth grade got busy like that.

Sitting on the bed, sifting through them, I think how these letters are a direct connection to this person that I was, that I used to be, that I probably still am. These adventures and experiences that were so new to my 13-, 14-, 15-, 16-year-old self.

Sometimes, I think back to those summers and wonder if they meant the same to other people as they did to me. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. But then, today, almost 20 years later, I see photos and videos on Facebook—a new way to write—and I see familiar faces and familiar sentiments. The places we’d sit or walk or talk are still there, still part of all of it—same as it is for me.

As I collect the letters and put them, piece-by-piece, back in that memory box, I feel nostalgic. I feel lucky.

And then I close up the box, pack it up with all the other boxes, and wait for it to be moved to the new house.

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