A Mnemonic Collection

Stuff I wrote in high school (even as far back as junior high) and college that has survived 27 years or more of moving around the U.S. lives in a pine chest that R built when he was getting started as a professional woodworker (circa 1991). The chest sits in our bedroom closet, crammed full of things I’ve never wanted to throw away. So many things, in fact, that what started out to be a post about my early writing has turned into more of a memory inventory (translated: one of the reasons 2 people need as big a house as we do; pack rats r us).

The list of stuff:

  • Xmas cards folks have sent me. These harken from the ’80s and ’90s. There are more in one of my filing cabinets and in a box in the basement, along with piles of letters. I rarely throw away any mail anyone sends me.
  • A clear plastic bag of white wool roving I’m going to teach myself how to spin some day. The spindle and instruction book are in there, too.
  • A small stuffed Lorax. Much older than the recent movie.
  • Three encyclopedic volumes of Judaica one my my oldest friends gave me. Were they meant to be a loan? It’s been so long now, I can’t remember.
  • My baseball card collection. In the ’80s I really got into buying these. Cards are sorted by team. I ought to explore further and see if they’re worth anything now. Too bad they’re not serious collectors items.
  • An autograph book from high school signed by folks I mostly don’t remember. Some I do. I wonder if someone will find it as fascinating as I do my grandmother’s from when she was a kid. Unlikely.
  • Maps of Humboldt County and the North Coast of California where we lived for 5 years.
  • A newspaper column about early-season hunters being caught off guard by bad weather in the San Juan Mountains of SW Colorado (a place we lived for 8 years after leaving Cali) and having to be rescued. The writer, a Search and Rescue volunteer, makes fun of the people who head out to hunt in the wilderness without the proper preparation or equipment. (This kind of thing happened every hunting season) He comments at the end that now that he’s written this snarky column, he hopes he’ll never have to be rescued and have to live it down.
  • R’s original copy of The Joy of Cooking. We have a new (well, in comparison) copy that gets regular use, but I couldn’t bear to part with this one., completely falling apart as it is. The “new” one doesn’t have such fun asides in its recipes such as in the corn meal dumpling recipe on p. 192 where the authors quote a Kentucky hotel owner who claimed that the hotel restaurant’s dumplings came out best when the cook was drunk.
  • A Humboldt State University earthquake perparedness pamphlet that came out shortly after the 1992 North Coast quake struck, the second 7.1+ quake I got to experience in 8 years of living in California. The other one was the 1989 Loma Prieta quake.
  • An article from the 7/4/1986 DC City Paper on the chapel of St. Thomas Episcopal Church. My parents (now both long dead) were married there in the ’40s. I went to visit the chapel before leaving Maryland for the West Coast and found a park in its place, the chapel having been destroyed in a fire in 1971.
  • An old tiny address book.

And then there’s my old writing in 2 slim binders: one labeled Short Stories, Biographies, Plays & Other Great Works of Art by Les Beat (my first pen name—shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what my favorite band was at the time from that) and the other, a blue clip binder originally just for poetry for a creative writing class and now crammed with writing from other things, as well. The label is less entertaining, holding only my real name and Wednesday 1:00pm.

It’s a mixed bag, this collection of early stuff. Things that amuse me about the high school (and older) binder are how neat my printing is and how sincere and unabashed I am.

Not that I’m insincere now, but a 15 year-old writing about what she sees as TRUTH (even though it’s supposed to be funny) is very different from what a 50 year-old writes. I’m glad of that, although I miss that girl’s fearless enthusiasm. Not that mine is fearful, so much as it’s 35 years older, more cautious, more aware of how long injuries can take to heal. Let’s not call that fearful; let’s call it experience.

So, I want to wander through that binder and the other from college. That one includes work from a screenwriting class as well as a bunch of poetry, plus a story I submitted to TSR back in 1985, the last time I submitted anything before 2011. I was surprised to see and remember that the TSR fiction editor, a fellow named Patrick Lucien Price, had taken the time to explain what was wrong with my story in a very detailed manner.

Not sure what all of this I’ll want to share, but it’s interesting to rediscover my earlier enthusiasm for writing and telling stories. And thanks to Mr. Price and everyone else who’s taken the time to help me along the way.

You’ve read this far, though, patient, perhaps, with my nostalgic ramblings. Have a picture of the poet at 18.

Over at the Frankenstein Place

My hand focused
and candles burned,
reflected in the wine.

West Side Story rang
from hanging speakers.
Christ looked on from the wall.

The beauty of the night,
green-lighted dials,
the stereo’s hum.

The wine grew short,
it left a bad taste;
the candles flickered.
Tony killed Bernardo.

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8 thoughts on “A Mnemonic Collection

  1. Mmm, I love this! There’s a sense of paging through old papers, smelling the years and the dust and the memories. This is lovely.

    (And hooray for the detailed feedback! Loved that image!)

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