Since high school, I have saved a cardboard box of notes. All are written on either spiral-bound notebook paper—with the frillies still attached on the left—or that pulpy newsprint on which they made us do math. (I never cease to get excited by the fact that I won’t ever have to do math for credit again. Or labor. Labor or math—never have to do either of those again. For the record, I was much better at labor.) I have carted these notes around for years. They were passed in class or in the hallways of my enormous high school. Many are from my sister. In every single one, she is A) talking about some boy, and B) starving. That poor kid was never not hungry. Or never not thinking about some boy.
At any rate, these notes live in this closet:
This closet is that place in the house where crap is simply shoved and the door closed with no regard to tidiness or organization or anything but the idea of worrying about it later or when you need something that’s in there at which time it is very difficult to unearth the thing and you swear you are going to clean it up. (But you won’t.) The shelf contains (a generous use of that word) kind-of-folded-up spare curtains. That pink bag holds my wedding gown. Empty organizing containers and baskets of all kinds live in here as do the fans and a spare vacuum cleaner. And lots of other random crap. Here you will find the box of notes. I finally pitched the cardboard and upgraded to a plastic container.
Why did I keep these? And why am I rambling about them? Alright, I’ll tell you.
First let me say that I am not a saver in general. I am more of a compulsive purger. One of my great loves in this sweet life is getting rid of crap we don’t need. I love it so much. Almost too much. Steve (not his real name) might just say I love it too much. He would be likely to say it especially when I force him to participate. Especially when it's his crap. I am not particularly sentimental about objects and I have no trouble parting with things and I mostly don’t save stuff “just in case.”
But I could never toss these notes. They are a way for me to look back at myself—at parts of me which I pretty much forget about until I read them again. And the language! It is the prose of a teenager. Of a teenager in the 80s. Vocabulary my brain cannot simply conjure now. They are sweet, smart, funny.
I could never let them go.
In The Mosquito Hours, there are 3 main characters: Vivian and her 22 year old twin daughters, Tania and Guin. Tania finds her mother’s old diaries—which contain Vivian’s musings as well as pasted-in notes from friends—and secretly begins to read them. So when I was thinking about material for Vivian’s diaries and notes, I remembered: the box! I cobbled together many of my favorite parts of those old notes as well as my own diary material (holy crap, some of that shizzle is embarrassing!) to create Vivian’s. Those real words and events and feelings add such a sweet authenticity to Vivian's fictitious diaries.
Even though I have been tempted over the years to pitch the notes in the recycling bin, I am glad something held me back. I am shredding those old diaries at some point, though ...
Okay, confession time: I did not finish the edits on that story I promised you for this week. I said there was only a 50-50 chance I would come good on my promise, so don’t say you weren’t warned. But I am serialing a short story called “Squash Pie” that was originally posted on Her Circle Ezine a while back. The main character is in one of my novels-in-progress, so the story gives a little glimpse into one of my future works, in which I am fooling around with female archetypes. So, look for that on Thursday!