Blast from the past

Here’s something you don’t get to do everyday: open a time capsule.

Time capsules are usually buried underground or sealed somewhere in a building, but this one was sitting on the floor in my closet: my old L.L. Bean backpack from high school. On my last day at City High I drove home, put it on the floor, and never cleaned it out.

Although its been moved — most notably when home relocated to the east side in 2004 — and nostalgically peeked inside of now and again, I haven’t pulled it open to examine the contents in nearly eight years. The reason I’ve left it untouched — or even kept it, for that matter — is beyond my understanding. Time often collects on our oddities when we don’t intend it to, and this is one of those instances.

I was in my closet tonight, looking around at all the other odd things I’ve kept over the years, and spotted the old backpack on the floor. As I do when I first notice it, I thought, “Man, I haven’t looked in that since my last day of high school.” Usually that’s all the time I give it; I think about it for as long as it takes its circumstances to be recalled fondly, then move on to the next thing. But tonight I peeked inside the largest pouch (which as been open for nearly eight years) out of curiosity.

“What the hell is that?” I thought. I started digging in. After that I couldn’t stop.

At first I leafed through the papers without taking them out. There was a thick bundle of loose notes, worksheets, and printed text in the back and I picked out random pages. Each one fed my curiosity, and soon I took out the whole bunch to get a better look.

One thing I knew I’d find was math. I don’t remember why, but I had a lot of my math worksheets, notes, and graded homework assignments still with me on the last day. Maybe Miss Cook made us keep them. Who knows? (Miss Cook, by the way, was the best math teacher I ever had. She was candid, personal, and the hair on the sides of her head was cut so it looked like she had sideburns, though not on purpose…I think. I just thought they looked like sideburns. During my first semester of college she emailed me to see how I was and how I liked college. Maybe she had a crush on me.) Sure enough, I found a ton of math assignments, probably the most uninteresting and least informative time capsule item.

Although he worksheets did show, amazingly, that my handwriting has improved a little, the math said absolutely nothing about who I was, what I thought and felt, and what was happening in my life at the time. I was hoping to find something I had written or created myself, something that would reveal and reconnect me with my 18-year-old self. I have old copies of the Little Hawk that do exactly that, but I wanted to unearth a piece of writing I forgot a long time ago, which would tell me a lot more than the same old columns, articles, and pages I remember so well.

A few of those gems were found in a black binder. The funny thing is I don’t remember using binders in high school; I had folders for each class, which were each a different color so I could easily remember which was which. (If I remember right math was red, English was green, science was blue, and whatever humanities or history class I took was orange. Who knows what color French was.) I’ve long forgotten the story of the binder, but perhaps I used it to store old papers from former classes and kept it in my locker or on a shelf above my computer in the journalism suite. The reason I think it was for former classes is because I found handouts and peer presentation-grading forms from the Advanced Composition class I took the first trimester my senior year. Those papers were seven months old when I walked out the front doors as a student for the last time in May 2001. I found the first drafts of an analytical essay of Fitzgerald’s short story “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” and a finished and graded version of another on Hemingway’s “Three Day Blow.” I didn’t have the balls to read either; I was too afraid I’d think of my 18-year-old self as mildly retarded if I found the theses and analysis amateurish. (If I remember correctly, the “Three Day Blow” proposition centered on women bashing, which, I guess, is not far from the mark knowing Hemingway.) Another older document I found was Sean Voigt’s December 2000 Little Hawk column. God knows why that’s in there, either.

One thing that did amaze me was an odd little essay regarding my love for writing. I don’t remember why I wrote it, but what caught my eye were the additions I wrote in the margins and the lines I drew into the text to indicate their placement. I was blown away. It’s something I still do; I’ve never considered how long I’ve done it or how I started doing it.

A few other interesting things I found were:

my shitty calculator, (in)complete with missing buttons,

a spare set of keys for the family’s old Grand Voyager and our house on Russell Drive,

a torn-off piece to a blueberry Nutrigrain Bar wrapper covered with pieces of the backpack’s crumbling inner lining (I used that backpack for six years),

a study guide for my World Literature “final,”

this random piece of paper, which reads, “but they are good nuts,”

notes from reading Dante,

the number and combination to my assigned locker (bottom) and the locker I shared with my best friend in the main hallway (top),

and old schedule cards…from my junior year! (Who the fuck knows why they were in there.)

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