The sto­ries cal­en­dars can tell

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

De­spite leav­ing col­lege be­hind nine years ago, I don’t think I’ll ever get past the Au­gust-to-June school cal­en­dar drilled in my head.

In my ra­tio­nal mo­ments, I know I’m no longer a stu­dent — a “job” I held for nearly two decades. But some­times I just want an ex­cuse to buy high­lighters and binders again.

We still have three years be­fore Oliver en­ters preschool (be right back, ig­nore the tears), but I’m al­ready dream­ing of pressed first-day-of­school clothes, lunch bags and new shoes.

I don’t re­mem­ber ever feel­ing ner­vous to walk the long hall­ways in kinder­garten or third, fourth, fifth grade; it wasn’t un­til mid­dle school that a par­tic­u­lar brand of anx­i­ety — WhoWill-I-Sit-With-itis — came on vi­o­lently.

The biggest part of my prepa­ra­tion ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially as I got older, was to or­ga­nize my life ac­cord­ing to a new cal­en­dar. Back in the days be­fore iPhones and Google Drive, I kept a record of all my ap­point­ments and as­sign­ments in a phys­i­cal plan­ner — one I had with me at all times.

In a re­cent push to clean up the house, I tip­toed into the spare bed­room we’ve been us­ing to store all the junk carted out from my par­ents’ house. Some of it made the move to Spencer’s apart­ment when we mar­ried, but more still was just hang­ing out at Mom and Dad’s un­til we had the space for it now.

Boxes, bins and shelves ar­rived one af­ter­noon in Dad’s SUV, a story I’ve shared many times. But that was a de­fin­i­tive mo­ment: when my child­hood mem­o­ra­bilia sud­denly had to co­ex­ist with my adult life, and the re­sults were pretty . . . clut­tered.

Though my hus­band and I do­nate un­needed cloth­ing fairly of­ten, there will al­ways be a cache of items I can’t imag­ine part­ing with. But I don’t know what to do with them, ei­ther: hence those beloved Air­walks circa 1998 still kicked off in a cor­ner of the room.

In prepa­ra­tion for the yard sale we hosted ear­lier this sum­mer, Spence and I tack­led that spare room with lim­ited suc­cess. The prob­lem was sev­eral-fold, as prob­lems of­ten are: though I wasn’t ready to get rid of the stuff, I didn’t know — and still don’t know — what to do with it.

My at­tach­ment is purely emo­tional. I’ve read “The Life-Chang­ing Magic of Tidy­ing Up” by Marie Kondo; I’ve con­sid­ered which items bring me joy and which are sim­ply kept out of guilt or in­de­ci­sion.

But it’s hard, all this de­clut­ter­ing. Ev­ery­thing is at­tached to a mem­ory. Es­pe­cially when it comes to th­ese old cal­en­dars.

I spent many an angsty teen even­ing scrib­bling in jour­nals, but had stopped by my sopho­more year in col­lege. That’s when my plan­ner — in all its high­lighted, stick­ered, messy glory — be­came the record of my life: its obli­ga­tions, tri­umphs, fail­ures.

The now-de­funct Bor­ders in Wal­dorf had a sta­tionery sec­tion where I spent my afternoons (and Bor­ders pay­checks). If you ask me now, nine years later, to pic­ture the plan­ner I car­ried around re­li­giously, that’s sim­ple: aqua blue and flo­ral. I can feel its sturdy plas­tic cover be­neath my fin­gers.

Dur­ing our clean­ing, I came across that plan­ner kept dur­ing my se­nior year of col­lege. Flip­ping it open brought on a hur­ri­cane of mem­o­ries: of old friends and re­tail sched­ules, learn­ing to love coffee and late nights la­bor­ing over es­says.

This time of year will do it, too: school buses pop­ping up on back roads, prepa­ra­tion for the Charles County Fair and the ear­lier en­croach­ment of dark­ness each night. In my back-to-school days, I re­mem­ber mid-Au­gust as the time we hur­ried to see if class rosters were pasted to our el­e­men­tary school doors and the in­de­ci­sion of choos­ing a back­pack. Lead­ing up to the first day, I would worry over whether I’d share a lunch break with friends and du­ti­fully prac­tice us­ing my new com­bi­na­tion lock.

It’s hard to imag­ine part­ing with things like my old, usedup cal­en­dars be­cause they’re a phys­i­cal re­minder of what I did and when and where. My fears and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties are there, too — and some­times I like to re­flect on them. For the sake of progress.

If you ever feel you haven’t made strides since ado­les­cence, think about what con­cerned you at 10 or 14 or 18. Some of those anx­i­eties may linger, but for the most part? I bet you’ve con­quered them. You’re do­ing beau­ti­fully.

The oc­ca­sional pim­ple no longer stresses me out, for ex­am­ple. And I’m rarely ner­vous when I find my­self alone in a group. I’ve been driv­ing for 15 years, a chunk of that on the Belt­way — so lo­cal roads have stopped filling my white-knuck­led heart with fear. My old plan­ners tell those sorts of sto­ries, too.

Guess I’ll just tuck them away with the jour­nals.

Un­til the next de­clut­ter­ing, any­way.

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