Shoebox of Life

Mom gave me a shoebox of old school papers, journals, e-mails, and drawings from my childhood. It was a shoebox full of butterflies in every color of Crayola and of smiling, neckless little girls. Of wide-lined paper full of fat, rolling handwriting and of college rule paper with skinny, slanty, curly cursive.  I looked through the papers and saw my rainbow-loving self in there, who never drew a flower without drawing its roots reaching through the soil, and it was like Littler Me had all the answers that Bigger Me is looking for.

It’s taken me many years to finally start writing books. I always loved writing but thought I didn’t have anything to write about. I didn’t start writing novels in high school, like so many acclaimed authors. I never thought that writing was the only thing I wanted to do in life. I did not major in creative writing. So I’ve felt a bit like a poser and a fraud.

But now I have a shoebox that says what if you’re not?

There’s a story I wrote in the second grade about a Leaf and his cousin, Beaf, the only two leaves left on a tree.

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We are the only leaves that are left on the tree. It gets lonely every once in a while. Sometimes I think we are falling down.

I could write a poem on just those lines.

Sometimes I think we are falling down, I  wrote. I didn’t realize how very little wind it took to blow a leaf out of a tree.

The two little leaves try to make the best of things but eventually Beaf blows away in a big gust of wind, leaving Leaf all alone. In a moment of heroic bravery, the little leaf finally decides to let go…and is reunited with all her cousins on the ground.

Did I know what I was doing, metaphorically, at age 7??

Maybe. Maybe I did.

Other things in the shoebox made me laugh. Like when I wrote: I always get mixed up on spelling. This is what I once spelled for hope, hop. Wher’s the e?

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(I wish I could say this is an example of budding comedic genius, but alas, it’s just bad speling.)

Sometimes I used my writing in powerful ways, like to document complex interactions between family members.

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Such raw emotion! Sad Me gets it.

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In the third grade, I wrote the following story (apologies for the eye-bleeding cursive—there’s a translation below):

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It’s a story of a lady who was tired of keeping house so she built a robot to keep house for her, but that robot got tired of keeping house and built a robot to take its place, and so on and so on until one very smart robot organized all the others to ambush Mrs. Krinket and wire her to be a robot so she could do her own housework.

I mean, that’s a story!  That I wrote!

Happy Me gets it.

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On up through the years the shoebox went, reaching into high school, where I penned this poem after breaking up with my boyfriend:

I wash my hair of you
Strawberry shampoo
Rinse the residue
Ribbons flow
Where you once grew

That poem comes back to me sometimes when I step into the shower, and I whisper it into the steam. I don’t know why. I didn’t get the highest grade on it; my teacher said I should stick with lyrical prose and avoid so much rhyming, but it’s the one poem that keeps following me around like a loyal puppy, and I love it.

The shoebox showed me that all those years I wished I were a writer, all the years I’ve wondered if I’ll ever be a writer—all those years I already was a writer.

It showed me that I wasn’t just plopped down on this earth all big and adulty, like it sometimes feels.

It showed me that sometimes I felt happy and sometimes I felt sad. Even then.

When I finished looking through the papers, I sighed. I wished there were more. I wished that first of all Littler Me were here with Bigger Me and that second of all she was still writing more stories for the shoebox.

And then I realized that first of all, she is.

And that second of all, I am.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Pasta with your choice of vodka sauce or lobster sauce
Spinach salad
Millionaire’s shortbread

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