Cleaning out the basement in preparation for a party, I found a shoe box full of mementos. Inside were baseball cards, crisply folded notes on aging notebook paper from classmates and girlfriends, birthday cards from family and friends, ticket stubs from concerts and socials, yearbook photos with notes written on the back. There were a lot of things that I didn’t need to hold on to and eventually chose to discard, but I did find some things that stood out.
An invitation to BSA Troop 993’s Eagle Court of Honor, where a few guys I know — Steve, Jim, Tom, Chris, Steve, Mike, and Tim — would receive the highest rank in scouting. I still keep in touch with a few of those guys, though I still hear about the others. Some are married. Two went to the Academy. One is at Microsoft. One is out in L.A. running his own clothing line. Another has been in and out of Iraq several times. One is living comfortably and doing something he loves; I still see him every week. That only leaves one unaccounted for.
A handwritten note from a girl — from 1995 — asking me out in large block letters. I guess I needed it spelled out for me; it some ways that hasn’t changed even fifteen years later. She’s now the executive director of a think tank in Washington, D.C.
A letter from one of my best childhood friends, explaining how the end (of our friendship) came about. There were specifics, but the gist of it was “that our interests had changed and we were going in different directions.” Looking back, I don’t think anyone could have broken it down so simply and effectively. We haven’t been good friends since, instead getting glimpses of each others lives through the words of others and in brief passing. A few years after, his Dad passed away. I remember attending the funeral with several of my friends and despite our rocky history wishing there was more that I could do for him and his family than offer my sincere condolences.
An anniversary card from a girl I dated in high school. The Shoebox greeting reads “It’s funny how a simple design like checkerboard tiles, for example, can make me suddenly wish I was taking a shower with you.” As a younger (and far more shortsighted) guy, I was probably more interested in that prospect than the fact that the card itself is hilarious. We haven’t spoken in person since we met up for a show in Annapolis, but she’s still one of the most well-read and well-spoken women I’ve ever met, so the fact that she wrote “I have given up on eloquence entirely” before reverting to French (which I couldn’t and can’t read) is all the more amusing. As it happens she’s getting married in November and I couldn’t be happier for her.
A photo of a couple guys — decked out in borrowed ties and sport coats — headed to a middle school Homecoming dance. Though we’re all shorter and thinner than we are now, the smiles of my two friends (both named Chris) haven’t changed one bit after all these years. Some things don’t change. I take comfort in that.
Some of these items brought a smile to my face. Others brought the sort of queasiness that can only be produced by the resurgence of painful memories. But all have contributed in some form to getting me to where I am today. I don’t like to dwell, but I would like to remember. As such, some of these items will head back into the shoebox for rediscovery some time in the future.