When Dave and I left Philly in 2002, it was kind of in a hurry. We’d been talking about wanting to get out of town, and had been back to NYC for a few theater projects we were working on downtown, and for me a writing workshop with Maria Irene Fornes. Either Philly was not easy on us, or we were not easy on Philly. Perhaps Dave and I were not easy on each other. So when I got the first job I applied for in the New York Times help wanted section, we bolted. Two trips in my mom’s mini van saw us moved to New York.
The second load was all the stuff we were taking with us, the necessary stuff: the bed, the clothes, two forks, two plates, two coffee cups, the cats. But the first mini van load was of stuff we wanted but didn’t want to take with us. We packed it all up with lighting speed and dumped it in my parents attic. It’s been there ever since.
That was over 12 years ago.
In that time, my mom has been urging me to go through the stuff, see what I wanted, see what we wanted to toss. Cassette tapes, dishes scavenged from grandparents’ houses, cartons upon cartons of books, ashtrays left behind because Dave said he’d quit smoking, dolls that I didn’t need to carry around anymore, and a few much smaller, more interesting boxes. I found them this past weekend, when I found myself, for the first time in a year, at my parents house.
The first was a box full of letters. I pulled a few out of envelopes, and scanned them briefly before shoving them back into their paper graves. Notes from my step-mom stuffed into my backpack when I’d go to visit my mom, letters from my mom about what was happening in her life when I wasn’t around, love letters from teenage exes, communiques from friends. Lots of them started off with things like “I feel like we’ve grown apart,” or “Sorry for taking so long to get back to you,” or “S’up? What an original opening.” I’m thinking of posting some here, but haven’t had the nerve to read them yet. Confronting our former selves is tricky business.
I found a box of photos, too. Photos from things I’d forgotten about. Probably for good reason. They embarrass me, but I don’t want to be embarrassed of my child self any more. I’m sharing them in hopes that I can own the slur of child hood and reclaim it for my own. They are all from 1986-93, that most awkward time of life, the tween-teenage years.
awkward teenage years take blurry pictures on school trips. I loved those sunglasses. Eventually I bought a new pair, Dave borrowed these, and lost them.
awkward teenage years wear white lace keds on the first day on 6th grade. I really liked that school bag until I got to school and Denise and Melissa berated me for using an overnight bag as a book back. I mean duh.
awkward teenage years can’t manage a pleasant facial expression. After moving in with my mom and step-dad I’d go back to visit my dad, and always tried to match it up with my brother’s visitation. I wanted to be a good sister to him more than anything.
awkward teenage years wear striped thigh highs on nature walks.
awkward teenage years are overdressed for the backyard. That’s my Aunt and her two sons, both grown men now.
awkward teenage years can’t frame a photo. my dad clutches Mr Monkey, my brother’s best snuggle toy.
awkward teenage years marvel at the wonder of their baby cousin. At 3 my cousin chased me around the house with a pair of scissors. Sometimes issues run in families. Sometimes growing out of them does, too.
awkward teenage years match their blue hair with a blue hoodie. My dad brought my brother to visit me at my mom and step-dad’s, and it felt like worlds colliding. I didn’t know who to be.
awkward teenage years feel awkward at family parties. This was in the back of my great Aunt’s house in Brooklyn. I now live pretty close to this house, even though everyone else has left.
awkward teenage years feel like their high school diploma is a bunch of b.s. I looked for the diploma in the attic, but couldn’t find it. The last time I remember seeing it I’d used it as a plate for some fruit at the snack buffet at graduation.
awkward teenage years pose before the Christmas tree. That’s my grandpa Frank, who died a while back, and his wife.
awkward teenage years try to forget the Halloween when they made a fairy godmother costume out of a sheet. my step-mom made me this costume, and in retrospect did a pretty bang-up job.
awkward teenage years find it odd when their divorced parents are in the same place. I do not recognize where we are at all. Sarah Lawrence maybe? Or GFS? Some school.
awkward teenage years would rather be carefree. We’d vacationed to South Carolina. After a day at the beach we’d go into the condo and get blasted with the most freezing air conditioner I can ever remember experiencing.
awkward teenage years: upholstered.
the most awkward thing of all is dance class. Those are jazz shoes.
awkward teenage years try to play with pre-schoolers. those are both my brothers, who are not related to each other, whom I adore absolutely and unconditionally.
awkward teenage years get a hug. That’s the backyard of our old house. After a hurricane knocked out all the power once time, we grilled coffee and pancakes on the porch.
awkward teenage years scratch out their face on summer camp group photos. We bicycled all around Cape Cod and the Islands. A kiss in the Nantucket mist was the best part.
teenage mutant ninja turtles
awkward teenage years want to sit on the fridge, too, but I didn’t fit. This must have been my dad’s apartment after the split.
awkward teenage years stick their toes in the water. Summer 1992. New England coast somewhere.
awkward teenage years try to remember to smile. We were in Philly for my brother’s naturalization.
awkward teenage years are best when photographed by fellow awkward teenagers. a tiny cut out from a contact sheet.