Since our return to New Jersey, and subsequent purchase of a home with a mostly-empty basement, my mother has felt compelled to unload boxes from the recesses of her mostly-full attic into the dank, vacant corners of my "dungeon." Specifically, she is shedding my childhood "memory boxes." Even as I type that term, I begin to wonder whether memory boxes are a common element of everyone's childhood, or yet another phenomena unique to my Martin upbringing...
You see, in my childhood, there were no monsters hiding under the bed- only memory boxes. In the earliest years these were long, low cardboard constructs plucked from the shelves of Clover, Caldor, and Kmart. In later years they evolved into sleek, plastic Rubbermaid tubs, whose sides did not collapse, and whose lids did not crease and crack down their centers. I suppose the boxes grew right along with me, and with the mass of materials I deemed memorable.
In what most often seems a losing battle to keep one step ahead in the clutter race, I spent several hours this past weekend sifting through those memories, and brutally eliminating the excess. Letter books from kindergarten, my tiny handprints, documented for various Mothers' Day celebrations throughout the 80's, my first pair of reading glasses, and a Strawberry Shortcake wristwatch were just some of the spoils of this particular treasure hunt. I also combed through NKOTB buttons (once proudly displayed on my jean purse), lumpy clay creations from a childhood pottery class, and various articles of clothing, including an XL DC Talk concert t-shirt, and the one sewing project I turned out during a short stint in home economics - a hideous knee-length floral skirt (this was Christian school after all), pleated for good measure.
Amidst the giggles and snickers that punctuated my journey down Memory Lane, there was also a bittersweet theme that refused to be ignored.
The unfinished story.
Not the unfinished story of my life, as you, kind reader, might assume. But rather, literal unfinished stories, fleshed out in ink and lead, on all manner of wide and college-ruled paper. Pages and pages of characterization, storylines, plot summaries, and begining paragraphs...Yet not a single completed manuscript.
While I could easily shrug this off as a casualty of childhood impatience or distractibility, I am inclined instead to be gut-wrenchingly honest with myself. And in that spirit of honesty, I must admit that impatience and distractibility have remained my companions long since the chapters of my childhood were retired to a carboard memory box. Sadly, they have been the assasin of every story I've ever attempted to breathe into life.
So when the Barrington Borough sends it trash trucks barreling down Albany Avenue this Friday, I intend to haul to the curb more than a trashbag filled with the dispensible markers of an indispensable childhood. I'll also be unloading my proclivity towards procrastination, and the loaded gun that has effectively and repeatedly shot my stories dead, with the ammunition of fear, self-doubt, sloth and preoccupation.