You, In A Box

Yesterday, after writing about artsy fartsy-ness, I got a bug to dig out my art supplies and maybe art something to death. Unfortunately, I moved a couple of months ago and I still have no idea where anything lives. On the shelf in my gigantic closet, there is a huge black bin that I thought might contain my art supplies since I didn’t see them anywhere else. Atop said box was another box. I took down the impeding box and looked inside thinking that maybe it might hold arty wonders. Alas, it did not. However, it did contain all the sundry childhood stuff my mother was sick of holding onto, was planning to throw out, and instead, sent the albatross to me.

Inside this box was the physical fruits of my entire scholastic career; progress reports with little smiley stickers on them from kindergarten all the way through to high school report cards, school papers, drawings I did in school as a child, mother’s and father’s day cards I made, and even a letter to Santa Claus asking for clothes for my doll, Chrissy. When presented with your entire life, how could you resist looking through it? Instead of being creative, I looked through all my past creativity.

Inside the box, I found the lengthy report from the specialist who tested me for learning disabilities and dyslexia when I was seven years old. His conclusion was that I was not an idiot. I did not have dyslexia. Even though I appeared ambidextrous, when it came to anything requiring precision, like writing, I was 80% left-handed, which is entirely true, even today. His recommendation was to take me out of special education classes, return me to regular class again and put the damn pencil in my left hand. He didn’t actually say “damn.” I read the whole report. He did a lot of tests. All of my reading and comprehension skills were well above average, but even at seven years old, math was my weak area. If it hadn’t been for my mother and that specialist, I might have spent forever in that special education class.

I found several of my standardized test results. 90th percentile in reading, writing, spelling, comprehension, and my vocabulary was off the charts; average for math. Always average for math. Stupid math, the bane of my entire school career.

I found the hospital bill, and even the visitor passes for my father and his parents from when I was born. I found the hospital bill from when I had pneumococcal meningitis. I was in neonatal intensive care for thirteen days. The list of charges was so long, it was two pages stapled together. It cost my parents $10, because apparently, my father had the best health insurance known to man.

It is entirely weird confronting yourself in a box like that. To pick up a piece of that terrible quality lined paper they use in kindergarten, read some words on it and know that you were the one who took pencil to paper decades ago and wrote that. My penmanship was neat and tidy, but practiced. You could tell that I took my time writing the letters.

To pick up a letter to Santa Claus and have a vague recollection of a doll named Chrissy; to look at a self-portrait drawn in kindergarten or first grade and see blonde hair and crooked green eyes; to watch the progression as my high school report cards went from a cumulative grade point average of 3.975 to 3.0, and remember what it was like to just not care anymore about any of it; this is my past. That was me. I hardly connect with any of it. I have more in common with the high schooler who didn’t care about failing classes and skipped school constantly than I do to the crooked green eyes and neat penmanship, yet, I don’t relate to either of them.

I am not the shy, quiet child who never participated in class unless forced. I am not the rebellious teenager, cutting class and cutting myself with a bottle of gin in my locker who scoffed at the idea of college. Yet, I am both of them. I contain both of them as the foundation of who I am now, yet I am neither of those people anymore.

I don’t like either of those people. I want to tell the shy girl to smarten up and stop being so scared of everything, especially people. People are just people and they’re not scary.

I want to tell the rebellious teenager that she’s a damn moron for throwing away scholarships to Ivy League schools. This is her chance to make something of herself. She can be anything she wants. She doesn’t have to throw it all away. Just survive the next few months and you’ll be away from your family forever. She can start fresh, but that’s not at all what she did and I sort of resent her for it. I resent her for being such an idiot, but she doesn’t know any better even though she thinks she knows everything.

Why did my mother keep these things? I have no idea. She kept them for decades and then sent them to me. What am I supposed to do with them? You can’t just throw these things out, so I put them all back in the box.

I did find my art supplies. They were in the big black bin like I thought. I took them out and organized them into their new home, a cabinet I had earmarked for them. Oil in one drawer–for some reason, I have a ton of oil paints, which is weird since I hate painting in oil–pastels, oil pastels, graphite, charcoal and Conté sticks in another. Brushes, turpentine, gum arabic, binding mediums, glass beads and other texturizers sorted. Gouache with gouache, acrylics with acrylics, only to find that I was completely out of titanium or mixing white acrylic paint–the one thing I really needed to paint in acrylic. I could have used oil, gouache or even watercolor instead, but I wanted acrylic. Alas, I had no inclination to run up to the art supply store to get some either; no creativity for me.

The good news is, that was the very last unknown contents box in my house. It is now labeled misc. school crap.