I destroyed my diaries, finally.
Rest assured, there weren’t any horrible, dark secrets in them, though I might have been grateful for one of those at the time. No, they were merely full of the inane babble, punctuated by a few attempts at Deep Thoughts, of a child whose imagination was usually more remarkable than her actual existence. I cringed every time I so much as glanced at the pages, and so, at long last, I ripped out a few half-decent-ish poems, and chucked the rest in the trash.
More of my high school writing is at least salvageable. In fact, I was looking through a trove of old Word documents when I rediscovered an essay I’d written, responding to the following prompt: “Has there been a time in your life when a friend or relative really lifted your mood or improved your outlook on something? Write a letter to that person, describing the situation and how you felt, and thanking them for what they did for you.”
And who was this heartfelt note addressed to? To the following individuals:
“To the People at Church that Sit at the Table Nearest the Trash Can, a.k.a. the Kid’s Table.”
Yup, I definitely wrote that. I don’t think much of a good chunk of the writing; it’s far too full of verbose meanderings on subjects that, while perhaps tangentially related, are really just there because I wanted to include them. E.g., I get it, 16-year-old me, you were a Tolkien nerd and proud of it, and you and your little friends thought Peter Jackson could do no wrong. It would be years before The Hobbit films came out, and it all came crashing down…
…Obviously, there are aspects of writing that I still struggle with to this day. But boy was I into italicizing words for emphasis back then. Never mind that; it’s nearly ten years later, and I have the power to edit as I see fit, deleting some portions and focusing on what I see as important now, in this nostalgic mood I’m in.
I wrote a letter to my ten or so best childhood friends. “When we share our ‘fellowship meal’ after church,” I explained, “the adults always sit at the table nearest the bathrooms and talk about politics and other stuff, and we, all ten of us kids (we’re such a small church) eat at the other table. This is the ‘Kid’s Table,’ even though we range from twelve to nineteen.” I thanked all of them, for letting me be “…as silly as I want with you. You are my friends and I…yeah, I love you. As sappy as that is to actually say.”
Here’re some of the “situations” I described:
“and then there’s J.C.M.’s take on the whole ‘Guns vs. Gold, Which Should You Stockpile When Society Breaks Down?’ discussion – this was R.J.’s brainchild: he delights in predicting the end of America as we know it. J.C.M proclaimed: “Guns will get you gold.”
“Ultimately, K.G. and J.J. and I are the sort of people to whom you can tell an unbelievable story about your encounter with aliens in the woods, and we will totally go along with it, and try to identify these aliens to see if they’re the same kind we met the other day.”
“If it comes right down to it, we’re all rather silly. The ‘Slightly More Sensible Circle,’ J.C.M., J.J.M., and D.J., will always take a break from their discussion of technological stuff to help us make a list of ‘Worst Smelling Stores’ (with Bed, Bath & Beyond being #1).”
“Even the calmest of us isn’t immune from the rivalry that invades whenever we play Uno…It’s so easy to chuckle at R.J.’s droll commentary (‘J.J.M. now proceeds to dump a Draw Four card on D.J. A.M. will now take the lead and lay down an Eight of Blue.’) ”
“K.G. purposely mixes his food together – defiles it! – because he knows I can’t stand that. Which is why, when I deal out Uno cards, I viciously spit out: ‘six-six-six.’ He’s superstitious about it. Or pretends to be.”
“…as I so famously quoted to y’all some time ago: ‘Life’s not a rosy bed of floppy bunnies.’”
“Mom once asked me: what if, when I grow up and move away, I forget all about everyone here. I said: ‘I think I’d have a hard time forgetting about these people.’ When I recently re-told the story to y’all, I added, jestingly: ‘Some of these memories will probably haunt my nightmares.’”
“I’ll never let anyone forget how someone was once twisted into saying – very sarcastically, it must be admitted – ‘Yes, and it’s every boy’s dream to become a dolphin.’”
But here’s the thing: I did forget. I’d forgotten every one of these things. I don’t want to think of how many more things I’ve forgotten.
Although, it is true, I have not forgotten the people. This last paragraph I wrote still does ring true.
“This letter really doesn’t say all I want it to. It’s hard putting love down on paper, hard putting years of us down on paper. How can you portray people and relationships in all their wondrous complexity in crude words, especially since I primarily think in images? I hope that, wherever I go, whatever serious business I get up to, when sensibleness gets to me, I’ll keep that picture of us all, sitting at the church lunch table, giving our crazy spin on life.”
Still. I really should have kept a better diary.