I’m a terribly sentimental fellow, which is not a bad thing. I don’t sob hysterically, fondly recalling a New England Patriots Super Bowl victory. But, a silly smile forms when I look up from my computer at the Scared o’ Bears Ranch World Corporate Headquarters and see that top bookcase shelf photo of me grimacing while my 5-year-old girl playfully annoys me. In a couple months, she turns 17.
Seven. Teen. Dear me.
I still have nearly every drawing she’s created and that’s going to be up to her to toss someday.
Me? I’ve collected a museum of objects somewhere between junk and treasure. I used to have a lot more. Over the years, everything from earthquakes to common sense, rats to the erosion of time have stepped in to lessen my inventory of memories.
I used to play basketball and was halfway decent. Played in gas station leagues and twice won the top-level state AAU tournament. The 1994 quake knocked over dozens of boxes of trophies, breaking some. My dad took it as a sign from God to throw them all away. All those little basketball guys in their underwear, cascading into the big Blue Barrel bin, screaming in slow motion: “Noooooooooooo!!”
I recently moved into a new, giant office and with me came some 500 banker’s boxes, housing photos, memorabilia, office supplies in quadruplets. There’s books, some I’ve read, some I’ve written. Manuscripts of books never published, notes for new novels, and, of course, puppets.
Recently, I made a vow that fooled no one. I’d lighten my earthly load, break that silly habit of every half-decade to open a box, smile at something fond or romantic. Maybe it’s one of the tens of thousands of stories I’ve written. In a hurry usually, I take a moment to glance and reflect, then stuff the object back in its tomb, to be briefly revisited five years later, five years later, five years later, and so on. I have, so far, 17 hammers. Two hands. Seventeen hammers. Thing is, there are people in Third World countries who need hammers. But, like baby pictures, you can’t just get rid of a hammer. Same thing with puppets.
Years ago, I was on vacation with a particular beloved. We were up in the High Sierras. She was in a self-imposed snit and hadn’t spoken to me in two days. To this day, I couldn’t tell you why. Call it what you will — an overt fascination with performance art, passive aggression, enlightened self-interest — I vowed I wouldn’t let T.F.S.E. (The Feminine Shunning Experience) interfere with my mountain get-away. Next stop, I bought this cute little bear hand puppet. As I drove, the puppet on my left hand to help me steer, I shared my vacation with my furry little friend.
“Hey! Will you look at that! There’s got to be a herd of maybe two dozen deer on the side of the road!” I pointed out. “Look!”
“Wow!” answered the puppet, quickly jerking his head toward the venison then at me. “They look good enough to eat!”
We both laughed.
My girlfriend simmered to a boil, unsuccessfully making a mad dash to grab my doting and interesting pretend friend.
He growled at her.
You can’t throw away a puppet like that. Ditto with Boxing Nun. I have a Boxing Nun Hand Puppet. All men should. It’s going with me to the grave.
Years ago, I threw away a pricey and empty champagne bottle. It marked some auspicious occasion — a marriage proposal, a wonderful date, launching a steam ship, a divorce becoming final. Problem? I couldn’t remotely recall the significance.
Neatly wrapped in newspapers and plastic bags, I’ve a dozen-plus boxes of journalism awards. In this latest move, I just rediscovered one I had completely forgotten: The Ruth Newhall Lifetime Achievement Award. It’s a big, heavy thing of a paperboy hawking a newspaper. Somehow, the little print edition of The Signal is missing from his mitts. I replaced it with a packet of Taco Bell hot sauce. Dear me and cripes, I’ll never forget the events leading up to the ceremony. The award was given at the annual Randy Wicks First Amendment Scholarships. Weeks before, I kept getting a nonchalant cold shoulder from Managing Editor Tim Whyte and Publisher Will Fleet. Heavens. I was partly in charge of planning the darn event. I kept asking Tim and Will how things were going and they invented one ruse after another to blow me off. Night of the event, I’m the recipient. Still smile from the bottom of my heart remembering those two.
Can’t throw away a lifetime achievement, can you?
I have a small framed water color. It sits in a nook, top shelf, of the giant bookcase surrounding my desk. It’s of a stack of graham crackers and a half of a glass quart bottle of chocolate milk. I had it commissioned years ago. In the 1920s, when my dad was a poor farm boy in second grade, every Friday was Milk and Cookies Day at school. Bring in just two pennies and the teacher would give you a treat. My father couldn’t afford the two lousy pennies. He’d spend the breaks, head buried in his arms at his desk so he wouldn’t have to watch the other kids eating. Years later, Pops laughed about it.
Can’t throw away milk and cookies.
John Boston is a local writer. With boxes.