Tag Archives: school

Memory lane is a lonely road

My parents finally kicked me out of the house. Okay, technically they kicked my stuff out of the house. It’s true that I bought my first house over twenty years ago but I’ve happily continued to use theirs as my off-site storage facility. The recent rain flooded their basement which in turn prompted them to start throwing things out. Years of experience has taught them that it’s unwise to pitch things that belong to me without asking first so they skipped that step and appeared at my house with a large box which they unceremoniously dumped on the floor. Dad said, “This is yours. You decide what to do with it.”

The box was labeled ‘Judy’s school stuff.’ I left it where it had landed in my front hall for a couple of weeks while I worked up the energy for a long trip down memory lane. The smell of the box, which had spent multiple decades in a musty basement, finally compelled me to explore the contents so I could decide what to do with them and air out my hallway.

As labeled, the box contained school papers and other treasures from elementary school through high school. A selection of notable finds included a ticket to a production of ‘Lil’ Abner’ that we did in Jr. High that had a bit of Mark V.’s fake mustache taped to it; a letter I wrote to NBC in 1973 protesting the cancelation of Bonanza which, along with letters to Save the Children and the local Board of Selectman, was apparently a school project not evidence of my precociousness as I originally thought; a tenth grade World Civilization paper marked ‘C-, barely’; and a paper where the teacher wrote, ‘Where’s the argument? I know you like controversy. I see it in class all the time.’ I was surprised to discover that I was not as bad at math as I remembered, or as good at everything else.

Over the course of several days (memory lane is a long road) I tried to engage my daughter in the review of my early years but she was singularly uninterested. I had her intrigued for a minute when I undertook an explanation of mimeograph machines but she wandered off when it became clear that I didn’t actually know how they worked. My husband lit up briefly when I gave him a printout from an early computer which we were teaching to play blackjack (or maybe it was teaching us) but mostly he nodded and said, “That’s nice, dear,” sounding exactly like his own father. I finally resigned myself to the fact that my cherished mementos are never going to become anyone else’s. Down the road when my daughter is cleaning out my basement she’s not going to stop and read my old papers, she’s going to toss them out. I guess I’ll save her the trouble. I kept a few representative things (all the papers that got A’s) and recycled the rest. I’ll have to remember to tell my parents that if they come across any of their school papers while they’re cleaning they should feel free to throw them out.

Mind you, this applies only to items found in the basement. When it’s time to clean out my room I’d prefer they not touch anything without asking me first.

When did you grow up?

The expression came of age generally refers to a culturally prescribed time; the law says you can be tried as an adult; your religion says you’re a voting member of your community; your parents make you pay rent. Most people can answer the questions “When were you born,” and “When did you graduate from high school,” with a high degree of precision. I’m curious about people who say “I grew up in the ‘50s,” (or ‘60s, or whichever decade they deem appropriate). What do they mean?

What constitutes growing up? It’s not a vertical measure. Is it a moment in time, like when you came of age; when you started high school, had your first kiss, stole your first car? Is it open to interpretation or is there a rule for it?

If I grew up in the ‘70s can someone else my age have grown up in the ‘80s? I liked the ‘60s but can I claim to have grown up in the ‘60s if I was only eleven when they ended?

It’s not unusual to hear someone volunteer, “I grew up in the x’s,” but when was the last time you heard someone ask, “When did you grow up?” I think we shy away from that question because it’s too vague. We know no one will respond, “I grew up at 8:15pm, November 13, 1974,” so rather than ask we triangulate an assumption from dates like birth and high school graduation; questions easily asked and answered.

Growing up is a process. It can cover multiple decades. I was born at the tail end of the ‘50s, highly influenced by the events of the ‘60s, went to high school and college in the ‘70s and didn’t start to figure it all out until we tipped into 2010. I’m still not convinced I’m a grown-up.

So I ask you, when did you grow up? And perhaps more pressing, when will I?