So, I’ve mentioned before that Anne Tyler is my favorite author, and I love her book “Breathing Lessons” so much. In this, the main character works in a nursing home and a resident there tells her that he believes when you go to heaven, you will be given a big gunny sack with all of the things you lost or miss from your life. He talks about a red wagon, meeting his wife, an old pet, etc. It started me thinking about what I would like in my own sack (if I make it to the pearly gates, which I’m planning on), and the realization this sack is going to be ginormous.
One thing I have lost over the years of moving so much is a sweater my grandma knitted for me when I was a teenager. Of course then I didn’t appreciate the work and time she put into it, but it really was beautiful. Soft green fuzzy yarn with a v-neck. I’d love to have that again to wear (does it get chilly in heaven?) and feel that softness against my skin again.
Grandma also made these God-awful yearly sequined calendars, which my mom actually had to help her with every December since she never got them done in time, no matter when she started them. Every year was a special ‘motif’ such as cardinals, tea pots, flowers, etc. And need I remind you, these were all made with sequins. Oh grandma, these were so hideous, with the calendar dates so small you needed a magnifying glass just to be able to read them, but I tell you what…there’s nothing I’d love more than to have one hanging in my office right now.
By the same token, grandpa used to make a lot of things too. One year, he made my sister and I stilts. A high pair and low pair with the high pair being about a good foot off the ground. They were made from 2×4’s (impressed with my wood knowledge?) and would be outlawed in a minute today! But for a few years, my sister and I clomped around the neighborhood on them all of the time! He also made T and I buckeye necklaces after gathering buckets full of them. I thought they were my jewels and wore them proudly! I’d pretend that I was a beautiful princess wearing my diamonds, ready to meet my prince Charming (by the way, still waiting…just sayin’).
I’d also love my first library card in my bag. I can still see it now: the size of a recipe card, pink, with my signed name on it! Every Saturday my mom, sis, and I would traipse to the bookmobile and check out armfuls of books. I liked to read anything and everything, and I know I get that love from my ma…she’s an avid reader and definitely passed that trait along to me and T. I really loved it when I finally qualified for my ‘Young Teen’ card and could check out books by Judy Bloom! I finally got to read about periods, french kissing, and, GASP, sex!! I wonder how many of us learned about all of these things because of Judy?
When T and I were little, our family went to a lake not too far away and had a room in a small motel with the beach right there. I know I was pretty little, but I remember the smell! That sort of musty, watery, buggy smell and for some reason, I still love it today. I’d love to have that smell in my bag.
My mom gets jealous when I talk about this, but I had a HUGE crush on the speech teacher I had for 3 years! She taught me how to speak so people could actually understand me, and she had ‘treasures’ we could earn for doing well. One time, I earned what I had my heart set on for weeks: a blue canister that had cow sounds when you turned it upside down. I loved loved loved it! I also earned Fruit Strip gum once, and never tasted anything so good…it was from Ms. D!
I also remember matching nightgowns T and I had; for some God forsaken reason, mom thought we were twins and dressed us accordingly. We are 3 years apart. Anyhoot, they were red plaid flannel and we wore them so much, they became soft and comfy! I was also into ‘Little House on the Prairie’ at the time, and envisioned myself as the reincarnated Laura Ingalls. My nightie made me look like it!
One Christmas, when I was probably in the 6th grade or so, my aunt gave me a clear make-up case with lip gloss, mascara, and some powder in it. I loved that so much! I’m sure mom and dad spent a lot more on me at Christmas that year, but this was my favorite! It’s the first time I felt like I was really growing up!
And my first 10 speed! Baby blue with black taped curved handlebars and I paid for most of it myself! I don’t even remember who took me to pick it up because I was just too damn excited to ride it, because it was like a ticket to freedom for me. I rode everywhere around our city and loved the feeling of going fast with the wind on my face. I still love riding anything on 2 wheels still; and yes, I’m cool enough to have had a Harley! Oh yeah!
I was in 8th grade when I really wanted to learn to play the flute because my best friend played it so well! So, she gave me her old flute and I learned on that, and had a ball in marching band, music camp, and just feeling a part of that band-geek community.
When my sis and I were in grade school, my dad surprised us by picking us up from school, taking us to a local shop for greasy bags of buttery popcorn, and then going to a theater to watch “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”! I’ll never forget how good that popcorn tasted because I was with dad and T doing something so special! Dad would also call T and I every morning on our birthdays while he was at work. Back then, getting a call from your dad was truly an awesome thing…we loved them!
OMG. Ma won’t believe I’m including this, but she had this UGLY outfit comprised of flared capris and a button up shirt in a patchwork quilt pattern. Go ahead and gag…I’ll wait. Anyhoot, to be a smartass, I told her how much I loved it, so guess what? She believed the compliment and bought me one of the damn outfits to match hers. Fuck. So, I had to wear it at least a couple of times in front of her, and did so for the first time when my son, his dad, and I met mom at church one Sunday. I got dressed and asked hubby how I looked. His fashion sense was not great, but he said: “My God, you look like a freaking quilt. Are you really going to wear that in public?” Unfortunately I did. Twice. But having mom buy it for me, and seeing her face when I wore it makes me think I’d wear it again (once) in heaven. Just to give Jesus a chuckle. (NOTE: I tried to find a pic of this, and they all must have been burned or banned).
When my son lived in Fort Worth for 3 years, ma and I drove down one Christmas and it was the WORST weather possible! Sleet, flooding, crawling traffic, ice and as I was driving, we’d hear radio reports saying: DO NOT TRAVEL IN THIS! Well, were only going 800 miles, so what the hell. Anyhoot, I’d love to have that time back because we laughed our way through the weather, stayed at the dumpiest motel you could possibly find in Oklahoma where there was 1 towel the size of a notebook, no kleenex (that was an extra amenity not offered), and a man behind bullet proof glass taking cash only in a town of about 3. But, we barricaded the door, got to Texas, and I got to show ma this awesome state for the first time. We had a blast!
And there are so many things from my son’s childhood I’d love to bag up! His sweet smell on his little bald head, and how he’d give me a slobbery, toothy grin when I’d get him out of his crib in the morning.
The little outfits that were his faves and how cute he looked in them. Him coming home and handing me a gluey, glittery valentine made out of a doily. The smell of the ball field for the many summers I watched him play in little league. The look of him in his swimming trunks yelling at me to watch him jump in for the 100th time. His getting older and going through that awkward stage where he had a face I still loved despite the fact he refused to cut his CURLY hair for a year and he looked like he had a bowling ball on top of his head. Getting to know him as his adult self where he developed an individuality and independence I’m so proud of. His hugs even now. His sweetness that is still there that shines from his face.
When I think about it, there are so so many things I’d love to have! The old green love seat in our basement when I was a teen where I made out with some guys…and I know T did the same because I was her look out! The gold shag carpet in my bedroom that would be actually really funky to have today. My first car: a 1980 Chevy Chevette complete with racing stripes and a luggage rack (this bag better be really big). The Mickey Mouse ears I got when we visited Disney Land when I was in the 4th grade.
The smell of a grade school classroom: crayons, glue, freshly sharpened pencils, markers, books, etc. The feel of my graduation robe when I got my Masters. My mom’s brown (shit brown) Monte Carlo that my sis would take me riding in…we actually found a street where if she went fast enough, we’d get off the ground (sorry, ma). My first computer, a Tandy with about a .0000000000001 size gig. My first sewing machine. The smell of my first dog, Scooter. And my gosh, the list would go on and on!!
Looking back like this makes me realize all of the special memories I have and how could I ever make this list complete? I’ve talked a lot about some bad things that have happened to me in my life, but there are so many good things too! Sometimes, when you are battling a mental illness, it’s hard to see them because we have to focus so much on getting through the day at times. But we are so much more than our diagnosis. We are complex, loving, funny, smart, interesting people who have so much more to us than these…wait for it…fucking bastards of mental illnesses. I think it’s nice to remember that.