Discover more from Adventures In "Journalism" by Sari Botton
Good Times and Bad Times...
...the funny and the sad ti-i-imes...
I’ve moved a lot of times in my life, and each time I’ve considered trashing at least some of the bags and boxes of memorabilia I’ve been toting around all my life. I’d like to thank Past Sari for hanging on to all that crap, because it’s proved useful as I’ve been writing my book. It all amounts to a treasure trove of writing prompts, and they are helping me jog my memory and make sense of the past from a new vantage point.
Some of it I was afraid to look at. While I’ve always tended to be nostalgic, even for horrible times in my life, I was afraid some of these things would bring up unresolved pain. Surprise! At 55 I’ve finally reached a point where none of this hurts anymore.
Here, in no particular order, I’ll share just a few of the mementos I’ve been happy to find:
1. Here’s a crayon drawing I did in 1989 (I sure have been doing bad crayon drawings for a long time) of the living room I shared with my first husband in an apartment on the boardwalk in Long Beach, NY. We got married that June, and with some of the money we received as wedding gifts we bought overstuffed couches, country French-inspired blond wood furniture, dhurrie rugs, and dinnerware that reminded us of what Thirtysomething’s Hope and Michael had in their home.
Here’s the dinnerware we got, which is the exact dinnerware Hope and Michael had.
2. Here are the lyrics to “Good Times and Bad Times” by a band called Aztec Two-Step, which I typed (very badly, with some kind of mental block around how to type “the”) in 9th grade, a year before I studied (and failed) typing. The song was an anthem of sorts among close friends from sleep-away camp, my “tribe” of weirdo theater geeks who tended to be outcasts among our peers at home. These lyrics hung on a bulletin board in my bedroom along with a number of other bits of camp nostalgia and inspirational quotes encouraging me to “JUST HOLD ON A LITTLE LONGER” until the next summer rolled around.
These lyrics actually speak to me right now, as I try to get through this very trying time, when I feel so disconnected from friends and family. I miss people now the way I missed my camp friends as a teen. I didn’t see that coming.
3. I swiped this card from the table where I sat on a double date at The Cookery on Christmas Eve, 1981, when I was 16. (The Cookery jazz club was on the corner of 8th Street and University in Manhattan, where BBQ is.) My first boyfriend and I, along with another couple, landed there after trying and failing to get into other bars because we were underage. The drinking age in New York State was just 18 at the time. (The State Liquor Authority would soon raise it, first to 19 just after I’d turned 18, then to 21 just after I’d turned 19. It meant that twice, those of use born in 1965 were granted the right to drink and purchase alcohol, and then had that right revoked with no grandfather clause.)
That night we accidentally stumbled into an evening of great music by a legend. For the others it was just a way to be out in New York City, drinking. For me, a girl who loved to sing and hoped to some day be a professional singer, who’d grown up on jazz standards and show tunes, it was a revelation. I bought a couple of Hunter’s records after that, but I don’t know what happened to them and the rest of my vinyl from my teen years. (I think my mom sold my records at a yard sale when we moved?)
4. More than anything else in the bags and boxes of memorabilia, this break-up card terrified me. I hadn’t read it since my freshman year of college, when I received it from a guy a year older, with whom I’d had a brief, whirlwind romance. I’d been so devastated by it, I thought it might retain some of its power. I’m so glad I pushed past my fear and read it anew, because a) we are talking about a breakup that happened 37 years ago, when I was 18, and b) what he wrote actually makes perfect sense to me now. It’s a really kind note, about how he was afraid one of us would get hurt because I also had a long-distance boyfriend.
My long-distance boyfriend—a.k.a., my first serious boyfriend, whom I’d been with since I was 16, and who was away at another college—had more than given the green light on seeing other people; he had pushed for us both to take our chances and possibly move on from each other. I was ready to move on from him, but not without someone else to move on to. We had this annoying dynamic that kept playing out: each time he suggested we see other people, I would and he wouldn’t, and then he’d get jealous of whoever I’d met, and more interested in me than he’d ever been before. My sophomore year, after the “let’s see other people” routine, I took it further. I got serious with another guy (who…became my first husband) and broke up with him.
Anyway, I learned recently that the guy who gave me this card married the girl he went out with a few months after we broke up, and they remain married to this day. Clearly they were meant to be, and we were not!
5. This is my ticket stub from the first concert I ever attended: Jackson Browne at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass., August 30th, 1980, a couple of months before I turned 15. I had been hurt when my step-sister and her boyfriend—also my close friend—initially wouldn’t let me go with them to the Hold On, Hold Out tour. (We would draw more “hold on through the winter until next summer at camp” inspiration from that record.) Then another male friend’s date backed out and at the last minute, they let me tag along. I went, but didn’t know how to mask how insulted I still felt.
To make it up to me, my step-sister’s boyfriend bought me a concert tee. I wore that thing for decades. I don’t remember discarding it. I kind of wish I still had it, mixed in with all this other stuff.