Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More from the Attic

I spent a good deal of my childhood writing, and then either tearing up and throwing away what I’d written or burning it. As an adult, I’ve always been extremely annoyed with my former self for being so impetuous. Most recently, I was jealous of Courtney when, earlier this year, she posted on what she’d found in one of her childhood diaries (and now she’s posted more), thinking: why couldn't I have been smart enough to save what I wrote like she did? Then I started going through boxes of stuff in our attic and came across a little book of short stories I’d written circa age ten or so, and a diary I kept when I was in eighth grade. I am beginning to understand completely now why I felt compelled to get rid of all evidence that I ever put pencil to paper (yes, most of this stuff is written in pencil) between the ages of seven and fifteen, and I'm patting myself on the back for being smart enough to know I wouldn't want to revisit this stuff, even at age thirty-or-forty-or-fifty something.

I’m very surprised this diary has survived and I’m not sure why I kept it. Most of my childhood diaries were started with great gusto, long entries every day, and then they fizzled out before I’d even made it a quarter of the way through the thing, with final entries as informative as this, “I’m bored,” or “[My sibling-of-the-moment] is so mean [always written in the hopes that said sibling would find it, read it, and feel appropriately remorseful].” This is the only one, as far as I know, that has survived (then again, remember I’m the one who had completely forgotten writing a wedding fairytale a mere twelve years ago. Maybe I’ve got a whole box full of childhood diaries down in the basement or something).

Bob and I whizzed through the little storybook together, discovering I was quite a morbid child, these being some of my characters: a butterfly captured by a girl who forgets to give it air to breathe, so it dies; a girl who has a secret boyfriend who is very poor (although, apparently, what little money he has, he spends on her) and sick and no one ever sees him except her; a fish who thinks he’s extremely smart and clever who meets his end when he discovers he’s not smart enough to outwit a shark. The diary, although not lacking in embarrassing passages, is much more interesting, so thought I’d share some of the thirteen-and-fourteen-year-old Emily with you.

Lest you think I’ve always been the extremely kind, tolerant, minister’s wife I’m sure I am at this point in my life, here are some quotes concerning my feelings about classmates,

“I don’t want [my best friend Karen, who had recently taken up smoking] to turn out like all those other dumb butts [no pun intended, I’m sure] who think they’re so cool, especially Chad. How can all those stupid idiots fall for him? He thinks he’s too cool. You should see him strutting around with his cigarette.” (Three years later, I’d start smoking, a habit I didn’t manage to break until I was nearly 30. I wish my thirteen-year-old self had been around to kick my sixteen-year-old, dumb-butt self when I made that decision.)

“Andrea is the kind of girl who makes me feel like throwing up every time I see her. She thinks she’s so pretty.”

“Some other awful girls are:
Ladonna Brown
Theresa Chamberlain (better known as THING)
Carole Slater (better known as Carole Slutter).”
(What I want to know is: when and where were the “Heathers” try-outs when I was thirteen?)

And, for all those of you who think my siblings and I grew up in a Brady Bunch household, here’s how I was getting along with them at this point in time. I have to admit, I’m quite proud of my logic:

“I wish Forsyth, Lindsay, and Ian wouldn’t all call me a Goodie Two Shoes. It’s so stupid, and I hate it! I’m not a Goodie Two Shoes. Besides, Lindsay’s always telling me how selfish I am. How can I be selfish and a Goodie Two Shoes at the same time?” (Quite obviously, I was keeping this diary well-hidden from prying eyes, because if they’d read the previous quotes, I’m pretty sure they’d have been calling me something else.)

Here are some things that haven’t changed much:

“I seem to like guys who have a good sense of humor.” (Anyone who knows Bob can attest to this unchanged fact.)


“I wish I were only about eight years old again.” (There’s nothing like an impending move to make one wish such a thing well past the teenaged years. Then again, I’d have to live through those horrible years of thirteen and fourteen again, so maybe not.)

On household chores:

“Well, Mom’s making me go polish silver for her dumb 4th July party, so I can’t write anymore.” (I still wonder why the silver had to be polished, when we'd all be spending all our time outside with paper plates and plastic utensils, but that's my mother when it comes to entertaining.)

That “dumb” party in retrospect:

“We had a great July 4th. The Eggberts came, and we played whiffle ball. Scott Eggbert and his friend Billy were cute.” (Amazing what a couple of cute boys can do to turn a dumb party into something great.)

On writing:

“I’m embarrassed to tell my friends I write books…I write too much.” (If only I “wrote too much” today.)

From the pen of the future math and science editor:

“I had some awful algebra problems for homework that I know I did all wrong and a lab in science I didn’t understand at all.” (I had horrible math and science teachers that year.)

On one of those kids who for some reason always latched onto me and wanted to be instant friends:

“I have a new friend named Suzanne…only I don’t really know if I can call her a friend. I don’t think I like her very much. She’s not my type.” (I just love that: “She’s not my type.” Maybe she wasn’t enough of a Goodie Two Shoes.)

But what a disservice I’d be doing all of you if I didn’t include in this post some eighth-grade DRAMA:

“Yesterday, we had the annual [my junior high] Talent Show. It was very good, especially the group they had called “BACE,” which consisted of Scott M., Brad B., and Brett M. Yesterday morning [the school “dress rehearsal”], when I saw it, Scott threw a rose, and it landed between Karen and me, and I got it first. Then in Spanish [class], Carla P. asked if she could see it, and when I asked her if I could have it back, she took off with it. Then at lunch, Karen grabbed it back, and Carla got all mean about it and started calling us names and things, so I said she could have it [chump]. Then today, Shorty [nickname for my friend Ruth. God knows why. She was always taller than I was] told me that Carla’s friend Sally B. said that it landed in Carla’s lap, and I grabbed it from her, and that Scott had said, “This rose is for you, Carla,” which is all a bunch of BULLSHIT [I was so tough, wasn’t I?] and means that Carla’s telling lies about it, even though I did give her the stupid rose [and we all think office gossip is bad. Lesson learned: being a Goodie Two Shoes does not keep one immune from malicious gossip].

“But [in case you're just so enraged by Carla’s horribly unjust treatment of me you feel like throwing up] last night made up for it, because Karen and I went again [to the great junior high talent show. This time, the real thing] and got front row [!] seats, and Brad B. (who’s good-looking and also a good singer) [because I'm sure you were dying to know], threw a rose and a note, and the note [which will last forever!] landed right in my lap. It said:
From Brad B.
To Whoever
(I love ya)” (He loved me, so we’ll forgive him his grammatical error. I guess that was the end of the drama. Carla must not have been there to witness my second gift of the day, because there was no mention of stolen notes, and I then went on to talk about – what else? – a book I’d just read.)

Unfortunately, it all ends just before the family moves to England for a good part of the next year. The last entry is all about how depressed I am about moving. It seems the week before we moved, I did nothing but spend the night at various friends’ houses, but on this night I’d had nothing to do and was “more depressed than ever.” Good thing, in hindsight, I know I was about to have the best year of my teenaged life. Otherwise, I’d be shooting myself for never producing a sequel.


Unknown said...

Love it! How funny these memories are, aren't they? Your journal sounds so much like mine and I am constantly astounded about my then ability to write, and write, and write some more. I mean, I went on FOREVER, with entries five and six pages long - we must have just had *so much* built up, hmm?

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, that was so much fun! I especially loved your present day commentary. Will you post one of your morbid stories sometime?

Anonymous said...

Where else can an angst-ridden teenager put mean thoughts but in their diary?
I am SO SORRY I called you a Goody-Two Shoes. I can't believe I did that. Don't you wish we had kept a diary that year in England? So many more interesting things happened then than all the rest of adolescence put together.

Rebecca said...

Please post a story!

Emily Barton said...

Court, yes, they're very funny. Oh, and to have all that space and time to spend with notebooks and pencils these days. I didn't know how lucky I was!

Linser, but I WAS a Goody-Two Shoes. We were having WAY too much fun in England to bother with keeping diaries, huh?

Stef and Becky, I promise the stories are not worth reading, but that would be an easy post, so I'll do it soon.

Rebecca H. said...

Oh, this is fun! I suspect my diaries, if I still have them today, would sound similar ... full of little dramas that are funny now but were so very serious then.

IM said...

I'm sorry for calling you Goodie Two Shoes. I won't do it again.

Emily Barton said...

Dorr, yes, I think ours would be quite similar.

Ian, the funny thing is Linser and I can't fathom your having used such a term.