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The Box up the Stairs, Part One: Introduction

July 20, 2009

Picture 784Information sharing is handled differently from marriage to marriage, but I think it tends universally to be something more presumed than realistic. Sunday afternoon, a rich slab of previously unshared information, that had been presumed shared, turned up as if it had been there all along, which, of course, indeed it had. The information made me insanely happy. Oh, said Prufrock: do not ask what is it; let us go and make our visit.

A despondent ennui has been setting in, incessantly pawing its way through my fifties, as I ruefully acknowledge that my future is behind me. The next best thing to having a future is having the ability to tag one’s past. Only then can we realize that we are no longer young, that we no longer can be young, and that we have forfeited only the imaginary freedom we thought we had when we were young, but which was no freedom at all, but a Jedi mind trick deployed by our parents and teachers. And truly, had it not been for these mind tricks, we’d have been far less likely to advance into our twenties, much less onward to the age of reflection. Not that we were not reflective in our twenties.

Our house, in which we have lived just over seven years, is about the same age as I am, but our house could be said still to have a lot of potential. Our house has one of those amazing spaces marketed as a “bonus room,” in which is stored a number of boxes I had always assumed contained unsorted, indispensable components from various obsolete material incarnations, all rife with potential utility, belonging to my always-prepared and ever-resourceful husband. What I did not know, that he knew and thought that I knew, was that two of these boxes contained trove I had believed long since lost to water damage or moving error. I don’t recall asking about them; I had quietly held a kind of Charlie Brown belief that if I didn’t see them anywhere, they must not be anyplace.

Then on Sunday afternoon, my husband went to fetch a picture of Abraham’s Oak to send a friend, and matter-of-factly announced the presence of a box containing boxed carousels and small boxes of slides I had taken from the 1960s through the 1980s. There was also a box containing slides my husband took in Iraq in 1984.

With my trusty Instamatic purchased with babysitting earnings when I was in junior high school, I was always the chronicler and sometimes the subject of my life. I have no recollection of when I put all the slides into carousels and labeled the boxes. It must have been at a time when I thought I might one day own a slide projector, which to this day remains a belayed aspiration. My husband inserted one slide at a time in the tray of his enlarger, and we hunkered over the images as they were projected on a sheet of paper on the enlarger base.

There they were, the best companions of my youth: my adoring and beautiful white-pawed, brown tabby cat, Chippy, and my cheerfully high-spirited blue Bedlington terrier, Ace, who joined our household in La Jolla. Ace’s high-bred good looks and intelligent grin earned him perpetual welcome at the La Jolla public library.

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The exceptional Chippy was the Cat Road Trip Champion of the World, and he was with me through the great and complex transition of my life, our mid-seventh-grade move from Schenectady to La Jolla. (This photo of him is actually an ancient Polaroid; a slide appears in a subsequent installment.) Chippy’s flexibility and devotion gave me the courage to face the weirdest life circumstances my twelve-year-old imagination could possibly have conjured. I thought we were just moving to the beach. It was for my good: I was believed too frail for the cold. There would be strawberries from March through September. I was excited. I had to be, to vindicate my mother’s impetuosity. It never occurred to me that other people already lived in La Jolla, and that they already had their friends. Chippy remained my steadfast friend.

For the next six years, I determined to focus on perfecting a pattern of not looking back. It never occurred to me how absurdly this failed because of the very act of chronicling these years so assiduously; chronicling inherently implies an intent to look back.

ADD kids can be kind of magical, because when they are not disruptive, they can appear to be very purposeful. I look at the slides I took of Charlie P. passing a note to Debbie T. in Mr. K’s. algebra class; of Charlie P. sleeping in Mr. K.’s algebra class, and of Charlie P. conferring with Mr. K. after algebra class, and wonder how it was that I was able to walk around Mr. K’s. algebra class taking these pictures. Charlie P. represents the obsequious ratification of ennui. We were not friends. My friends were the avengers of ennui.

To be continued… Next episode: The Truth about Abraham’s Oak

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One Comment
  1. July 21, 2009 10:33 am

    Lauren I love your novella already. I can’t wait for the next part.

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