“Don’t forget to take all your junk by the laundry room,” my mother yelled, just as I started to pack my things in the car.
As is our holiday tradition, at the end of each festive celebration, I am forced to take back trunkloads of things I have been storing in my parents’ house for decades.
At Christmas, it was boxfuls of old photos and yearbooks, and a vegetable steamer that still remains in my trunk. This Easter, it was my Jack LaLanne Power Juicer with booklets containing over 100 heart-healthy recipes, and a large cardboard box labeled in blue permanent marker: Jenny – Nostalgia.
I set the box on the island in my mother’s kitchen and gently lifted the lid, the dried masking tape snapping off in the middle with a puff of dust. Immediately, I was struck by the smell. It was the earthy scent of old paper and velvet ribbons, the smell of the back aisles of a thrift store where they keep all the musty books and record albums.
For over an hour, my mother and I sifted through old awards and citizenship certificates, elementary school homework and creative writing exercises. Without thinking, I started making little piles of certain items and pushing others to the side.
“You’re going to write about those, aren’t you?”
Through this brief journey to self-discovery, I remembered how much I enjoyed telling stories and drawing pictures as a child. My first true novella, which I shall share with you someday, was aptly titled, “The Bird.” I don’t want to spoil the plot, but I can tell you that it involved love, mystery, fear, abandonment, and fierce loyalty. And squirrels.
But to begin, I would like to provide a glimpse into the difficult family life that shaped me into the woman I am today. I don’t talk much about him, but I have an older brother, Matt.
Digging through the archives of my youth brought a lot of memories to the surface.
Fortunately, I documented most of them, with illustrations.
This first piece, entitled “Matt the Greedy,” was created in December 1977, when I was six and a half and he was nine. My mother had given us a carton of malted milk balls to share. I’ll let the drawing explain the rest.
As you can see from my detailed drawing, my brother has hoarded almost all the malted milk balls, leaving me with only one. He is smiling with eyes closed, like the contented cat that swallowed the canary. I, on the other hand, am featuring a prominent frown and sad eyes.
I’m sure some people may take pity on my brother, given that he has such a deformed club arm, but even with his disability he had no trouble gathering up all the malted milk balls and leaving me with but one.
As I grew older, I learned to express my anger and frustration by writing scathing and poignantly crafted letters, taping them to my brother’s bedroom door, then knocking and running away. Below is one of my finer works from this period – circa 1978.
Yes, open it up, won’t you, Mr. X-brother?
[click to enlarge]
Zing! Touché! Indeed, the pen IS mightier than the sword!
Surprisingly, my wicked words did not break his spirit, and eventually he grew up to be a doctor. Though the memory still stings, slowly but surely, through the years, he has been able to repay my malted milk ball debt in free eye exams and a standing offer of a 10% family discount on Lasik surgery.
Filed under: Nostalgia on April 18th, 2006 | 26 Comments »