It feels so surreal being back in my parents’ house. We moved here when I was sixteen, so I have a lot of teenage-angsty memories of this place. But, unbeknownst to me, in the 1960s Lane cedar chest in the other bedroom chock-full of my stuffed animals, sat four shoe boxes full of crap that I didn’t even know were there. One box contained a bunch of old comic books — “Cheryl Blossom” volume 1; “Rouge” volumes 1 and 4 (still in pretty good condition); “Gargoyles” volume 1; and countless other Archie comics that had been read to death, and Teen Beat, Tiger Beat, and BOP magazine, and all sorts of silly award certificates — “Good Citizenship,” and all that. Plus my D.A.R.E. completion, and the first book I’d ever written from sixth grade, fully illustrated, called “Follow Your Dreams,” about four friends who run away to New York to make their sports, writing, acting, and singing dreams become reality (cheese-central). There were also newspaper articles about plays I’d been in, as well as the play I wrote and directed in eighth grade. It was all such a blast from the past. Those were all things I’d mostly forgotten about, and those that I hadn’t I figured were long gone in the hoarded mess of my father’s house in Fairbanks.
Perhaps the most surprising thing of all were two letters I’d written to myself. I was about to toss the two boxes full of silly hand-written notes and letters from early high school and middle school, when I came across one that was licked sealed and marked with wax seals imprinted with a cursive “L” : ” Do Not Open Until the Year 2015!” I couldn’t believe I had written anything of substance in the letter, but I couldn’t resist tearing it open, especially when I had written “1997 SUX!” and “I H8 being a teenager” on the back of the envelope.
I wrote this first letter to myself when I was 13. I was in 8th grade. “Hi!” it starts. “You’re probably just a little grown [up] now, but of course you knew that already.” (Note that the word “up” was replaced by up-arrows.) The rest of the letter is pretty much a laundry list of angsty 13-year-old “remember when” nonsense, finishing off with “Why is life SO complicated? Why do we have to like guys that we have absolutely NO chance with?” Oh, that’s right. I had the biggest crush on the biggest bad-boy in the eighth grade. He was always getting into trouble, and always had to come into my remedial math class and sit in the naughty desk at the front of the room, having been removed from whatever class he was in for being disruptive. I was assigned to the front row seat adjacent from him, and I could never stop staring at him. His bowl cut, his baggy jeans and baggy tee-shirt, his grungy Nike dunks, and the intense dark bags under his eyes. I was in full-throttle infatuation.
The rest of the letter lists a bunch of people from middle school that I instruct my older self to look up and write to (there was no email back then, you see, let alone Facebook). Funnily enough, I’m actually friends with at least five of them on Facebook, while another one, sadly, killed himself several years ago.
I sign this first letter off “i hope i grow [up] and have a good life. if you don’t have one when you read this, please get one after you do! Love, your 13 year old self…..”
Yup, I really wrote that.