Dear Lily June,
On my quest to become a twenty-first century working mother version of Benjamin Franklin, I’ve been remarkably silent. You could argue that that’s a good thing, given that my last virtue to master was, in itself, Silence, but in this case, the crickets chirping in place of my voice have been announcing my big fat failure to master Order.
For me, this is an enormous irony. After all, shouldn’t Ms. Hospital Corners, Queen of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder be able, at least, to tackle keeping all “Things [in] their Places”? You’d be surprised. In fact, Lily, I confess. I’m kind of a hoarder.
Yes, I know exactly where I want each knick-knack on my shelves to appear. Yes, in my closet, all items are hung obsessively according to type. Yes, I load the dishwasher with the precision of Mussolini keeping the trains running on time. And yet, there is one item in my life for which I am an embarrassing, low-down dirty hoarder: Paper.
It’s so bad that if such a thing were possible, I might find stray cats wandering around in my file folders. We have an entire closet packed to the gills with boxes full of everything from greeting cards going back to my kindergarten years all the way up to term papers I wrote on the existentialism of American Beauty‘s Lester Burnham in my college years.
(Warning for future Lily: if the clip below still works, its language makes it NSFW. Unless you want to lose your job. Then, it couldn’t be more SFW.)
Like most hoarders, I’m not a disgusting wretch with no respect for other peoples’ physical space and its limitations. Instead, I’m dominated by two traits:
- an ability to project intense emotional investment into a physical item as an extreme sentimentalist; and
- crippling perfectionism that dictates if I can’t climb the mountain with absolute grace, I don’t even lift my foot over a pebble.
My closet monster, Lily, is made up of photographs of my childhood, programs of shows I’ve seen or been in and a thousand other origami style mementos of what it meant to physically write notes in class or send letters through the postal service.
(You see, in my day, Lily, you produced the artifact of written communication by pressing ink into the processed bark of a chopped down tree. You attached the artifact with stickers called postage stamps to the back of a snail, then spent a few painstaking weeks training the snail to crawl toward the letter’s designated recipient. That is why we called it “snail mail,” a slower devolution from the initial pony express.
It has been replaced, by and large, by email, whereupon you click tiny pieces of plastic with alphabet characters on them until they produce a correspondence with some semblance of meaning. You then electronically and metaphorically shoot it, like a poison-dart through a blow-gun, across a series of tubes. My, how far we’ve come, eh honey?)
Anyway, the point is that I have report cards and love letters and old awards and childhood art and and and… gumming up the works, and I’m pretty sure I can’t be Benjamin Franklin until my closet doesn’t resemble a child’s in some 1980’s sitcom, the kind that, once you open the door, produces a steady avalanche of debris including cardigans and roller skates and soccer balls.
And because the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (and there’s no time like the present to start chipping away at a Mt. Everest sized stack of crap), I think I’m going to add another to the ten-billion semi-irregular segments I intend to host on my blog, this one about being a Paper Hoarder. I’ve already found some gems that I’ve scanned and included below to preserve them, and from now on, whatever’s not nearest and dearest to my heart will go straight into the trash bin, I swear it.
After all, I have two immediate incentives now to ditch the paper trails that follow my life around like the wet tracks left by puddle-slogging slugs:
- We’re house-hunting and everything in our price range is too small to accommodate my collection, thus begging me to cut back into my mementos like they were the branches of a bonzai tree; and
- I’d rather keep YOUR things. I want fridges plastered with your report cards and paint-dipped handprints; Christmas trees strung entirely with macaroni art; and albums crammed with newspaper clippings of your many achievements on your rise to TAKE OVER THE WORLD, Lily.
So I’m going to go ahead and give the big shrug out to this particular Franklinian virtue, with the promise that I will occasionally venture into the hazard area that is my 3D closet to dispose of my 2D keepsakes.
In the meantime, here’s my electronic report card on my self-imposed Franklin 101 class:
Waking up at 5:00am? D+
Self-reflection through asking myself “What Good shall I do this day?” or “What Good Have I done this Day?” F
We’re once again actually going to do something good for humanity with our Family Bucket List this weekend, but it requires your dad and I to have our own take on the project. I know what I want to do. I’ve done the legwork and sent myself emails on the process. I’ve planned out my approach in my head when I can’t sleep at night. I just haven’t actually, physically, done any Good yet. So I’ve not been keeping myself accountable to it by tracking it. Drats for a lack of introspection!
Continuing Temperance & Silence? F–
This week, a mom came by our apartment with her daughter selling boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. I consider my gluttony an investment in your future.
As as for being a gossip, it’s been awfully cold in my office with it only being spring but the air conditioner running at temperatures better suited to mid-July. The hellfire I feel from being a bit of a backbiting flibbertigibbet keeps me from freezing.
But okay, okay, Lily: I seriously need to recommit. I admit it: Your mother can be a bit of an asshole sometimes. To be Benjamin Franklin, Lily, I need to DITCH ALL EXCUSES.
Practicing Order? C-
Speaking of excuses, I hurt my wrist this week, so how I could possibly be anything but out of order? I have been working on reorganizing our family’s book collection (a daunting task given our Beauty & the Beast-sized library), and I have been putting the bill stubs from the past year into a colored, multi-sectioned folder. I’ve just been accomplishing these tasks with all the gusto of a turtle on fire.
But, as promised above, I did accomplish making a small dent last week in terms of my paper collection. I include the proof below in the form of three generations’ worth of the women in your family’s writing and illustrations.
For the first example, you need to know that your Great Grandma Lorie (my grandmother on my mom’s side) and I used to exchange physical letters. In her handwritten (read: ancient) epistle to me, she was describing her frustration with recent issues in her life, not the least of which was not getting the hang of the (original, if you can believe it!) Nintendo Mario Brothers video games. She was also struggling with her spoiled cat who, at the time, had started biting her whenever it wanted attention. The excerpted text (beginning on a previous page that I didn’t copy) reads as follows:
This second example is one of my absolute favorites, and probably one of the many things my mother did that inspired me to become a poet in the first place. Every Easter (your first is coming in a little over a week!) your Grandma Raelyn (my mother) would handwrite clues that she’d hide in eggs all over the house leading me to my Easter basket. My mother was rarely a big holiday person, so this treat meant so much more than the chocolates and jelly beans to be found in the actual basket itself. For as long as I live, I will never forget the loving touch of these adorable rhyming clues, one set of which the following are from:
Text of Clue #2: I’m a little jelly bean. / I jumped out of your basket. / Look inside the fireplace / before you blow a gasket.
Text of Clue #6: The up’s! The down’s! All this hopping! / Out to the mailbox without stopping!
Finally, I give you an excerpt from the first “book” I ever wrote and illustrated from when I was 11 years old, entitled The Great American Lunchroom Disaster. The “talent” there would be enough to make Picasso and Shakespeare simultaneously roll over in their graves and laugh until they weep:
The text reads, “It all happened like dominoes. After Brian started it, everyone else had to join in. Steak nuggets bounced off walls. Chicken took flight. Even milk joined this air-born food. Everyone was throwing food. Everyone except Stephanie.”
And here’s the proof that I was the dorky inspiration behind my own main character:
Text: She had been reading the whole time. Stephanie only realized the circumstance when a jalapeno pepper landed in between the pages of Black Beauty.
I may not have been destined, Lily, to become the world’s greatest writer, but in hoarding this paper in a zipped up backpack in my closet for so long, I’d entirely lost the memories of ever having these. I’m glad for the physical reminders, but it’s also a sign that I need to spend more time exercising my mind and jogging my memory!
So, really, how Franklin have I been this week?
When it comes to being Benjamin Franklin this week, I’ve been a complete Alyssa. Just minus the -ly in the middle and the -a at the end. I’ll start again, Lily, I swear it.
At least me & Franklin both wear glasses?
Until Next Time…
[P.S. I challenge anyone reading this blog–you, too, Lily, someday!–to take on Franklin Fridays with me. Next up, it’s time to take on Resolution, about which Franklin prescribes:
“Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.”
For me, this means I’m going to recommit, super-seriously, to temperance, silence and order. And I’m going to make more dents in my paper hoarding closet.
In the meantime anyone reading (Bueller? Bueller?) if you ended up kicking temperance’s or silence’s or order’s collective butts, let me know. Or if, throughout this next week (from March 18 through March 25), you end up owning (pwning?) Resolution, let me know! If you end up trying it, leave me a comment. Or, better yet, if you end up writing about it for real-real, let me know, and I’ll link to your blog. I dare you to be more Franklin than me. Go be Resolved!]
- “Benjamin Franklin – Join or Die” by Benjamin Franklin – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3g05315. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_Die.jpg#/media/File:Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_Die.jpg
- Franklin, Benjamin. “From The Autobiography.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vol. A. Ed. Nina Baym. 7th ed. New York: Norton & Company, 2007. 522-534. Print.