The stories calendars can tell
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.