Found Memories | Newberry

Found Memories

I am willing to go over this as many times as necessary. I don’t MIND the presence of what you have written in books, barring perhaps those insane repetitive games where you told your friends “Turn to page 39” and “Now turn to page 222”. Many an inscription adds to the interest of an otherwise humdrum volume. Just last week, we got a third printing of the first edition of James Watson’s book on DNA, The Double Helix. I liked knowing that you got it from your grandson for Mother’s Day, and I like even better where you wrote “Very interesting, even if I didn’t understand any of the physics and chemistry”.

And the inscriptions in those old yearbooks really help. Once we’ve looked at the funny hairdos (which we of course are too young to have experienced) and checked through the index for celebrities, there’s not that much to a yearbook without those little handwritten scribbles of “Best of luck” and “Good wishes” and “Remember that half ham sandwich at the Oneota”.

But sometimes, things get a little more personal. And though you may be so completely used to what you wrote or your friends wrote to the point that you have forgotten it, the appeal of stepping into your young life for a moment may….

Um, specifically, I have this student directory of a rather expensive school out east. It dates to the 1970s, and includes photos and addresses of all your classmates, most of whom look like pleasant, normal, ordinary kids, with just the FAINTEST overtone of Preppie. Most of these faces would mean nothing to a viewer whatsoever, except that you and one or two select friends have added notes like

“Candidate for Playgirl fold-out”.

First of all, clam custard, the word should be “centerfold”. Where DID you go to school? And could you have put in a footnote or two explaining exactly what you meant and how you knew? (You used the expression on several different pictures, too. What research did you put into these inscriptions?)

Our need for detail appears throughout the book. I understand “Cutie” and “Sweetie”, but which way did you mean us to take those mildly profane exclamations next to some of the boys? These are expressions which could be taken in a positive or a negative way: which was it? And explain, please, “Cute smile (snort)”?

The observations you made on some of these young ladies are fairly easy to interpret. “Amazon”, “blarg”, and “too cool for us” do take me back into the last century and recollections of hallway politics. I am NOT sure any of my classmates would have referred to one of the other girls as “Nice conservative prep”.

There’s material for any number of novels and short stories here. We could depict the school year from YOUR point of view, and speculate on that second handwriting which invites you to a spot in Rhode Island this weekend, or we could switch things around and tell the story from the point of view of the lady whose face you have drawn an asterisk over, to refer to a footnote (though the anatomical reference does not exactly concern feet.) We can toss in the boys you refer to as “jailbirds”, as well as the “radioactive cow”.

Now, the chance that any of your classmates might pick this up at the next Book Fair is modest. But there WERE a couple hundred of them, and do you really want to take the chance? Maybe the boy you called “Big Disease” is now an alderman or tax assessor. You did have the foresight not to write your own name in the front, so MAYBE he’s forgotten your handwriting, or that of your friend with the pen and the salty vocabulary. Of course, since I know nothing about it: maybe you married him. Maybe he’ll enjoy being reminded of your jolly days back in Mass…oh, I wasn’t going to give your classmates any clues. We don’t want a mob scene at the Collectibles table, after all.

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