Sunday, February 8, 2009

Art and artifacts

If you were to conduct an archaeological dig into the far recesses of your personal files what would you find?

I'm sorting old files today, as I set up my new home office. I've found my Grade 4 report on the nation of Egypt, a series of "reports" I wrote in Grade 1 on fall clothes, fall activities, and fall animals, and what I imagine is a representative sample of the more than 2,000 illicit notes passed between me and my closest friends are among the files of personal artifacts I have saved over the course of my nearly 40 year life on this planet. My boarding pass from a high school trip to Mexico taken in 1987, a family photo album created for school which includes a section called "BMPS" (Before My Parents' Separation" and another section called "AMPS", napkins from the party at church that followed my confirmation, my grade report from Drivers' Ed (a score of 86 - not my best class ever), and a letter written to me on the eve of my 16th birthday from a woman who was sort of like a godmother to me.

I kept scrapbooks from middle through high school. And my mom gave every one of us kids a scrapbook for our high school graduation - complete with every drawing, birthday card, or "Let me tell you why I hate you mom" note we had ever written. I've gradually deconstructed these scrapbooks, and every time I go through the remaining pile of ragged edged papers, I winnow the stack down just a little further. Okay, Egyptology was really important to me as a kid, so I'll keep the Egypt report. And I live in Massachusetts now, so I NEED to save the report on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. But maybe it is time to recycle the report on the "Tar Heel State." And all of those hazy and unfocused photos from Disney World, Mexico, and the general carousing of high school life? They don't hold meaning for me anymore. Or maybe the meaning is so firmly etched in my heart and mind that I don't need the objects to remember.

And then I wonder if, at the age of 85, if I'll remember that night in Michelle Carisse's bedroom at her grandmother's house, when all of us girls teased our hair to its biggest best before heading out for a night of underage activity. Do I need that photo to help me remember what I was like as a teenager in the event that I become an 85 year-old who wants recall the full story of her life?

And here is the curious thing. Do these artifacts actually help me remember the full story of my life? The other day an old high school friend was reflecting on the people in her life and she commented that I was always the friend in our crew who kept a level head. "Really?" I thought to myself, realizing that I have NO idea how other people know me. I only know how I know myself.

So, as I work on this round of culling the archaeological finds of my life, I'm doing it with an eye towards telling my story as I know it, and hoping to get glimpses of how other people know me.

1 comment:

ellie said...

I would say level-headed....and practical.