Nostalgia in objects.
1. Homemade popcorn. I waited anxiously for you as a five or seven or ten-year-old, from the side of the stove. My mother would hush me as she poured your golden kernels, clanking and then lessening to tinks, against the silver pot. I’d hear pops as she’d rake the pot back and forth across the coiled burner. The cover was on, and you, future popcorn, would dart against the lid or the sides. After you bloomed into a perfect canvas for flavor, my mother emptied the pot into the brown Wegman’s (read: “Wagmen’s”) paper bag, to be topped with melted butter and salt, and shaken mercilessly. My fingers padded over with grease and salt, and I found remnants of your kernels in my teeth a day later.
2. The corded phone, attached to our living room wall. You are the reason I remember my brother sprawled on his back on the chocolate-colored carpet across the threshold to our living room. He could not leave your side, or the side of whoever was on the other line. You were placed within view of the television, luckily. Without call waiting, there were arguments to hurry conversations with friends or girlfriends. My brothers had no camera phones to view who they were talking to, so they were sure Debbie was “the real thing” when the town pedophile began calling our home.
3. The Preview Channel. You, a constant companion. The soothing scroll of television programs meant security to me. I knew what was coming next, yet I never turned from your channel. Here’s what I remember about you: Gremlins, Family Ties, Full House, You Can’t Do That on Television. There were many programs I couldn’t watch because my house didn’t subscribe to The Disney Channel or The Movie Channel, so you also reminded me of what I couldn’t have. That was captivating. Then you expired, leaving me to watch The Weather Channel, to listen to its elevator music. Now I watch hurricane season, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms unfold, waiting for the local weather every ten minutes, and it’s always on time.
4. The cordless phone that hung on our kitchen wall. You made many trips to my bedroom and stayed there until you would die, and my mother would yell, “Sarah, do you have the phone?” My father would call, “Sarah! Are you ignoring the beeps again?” Even then, I’d developed ways to ignore the inconvenient. I knew how to conference call, which was a sophisticated trick. Your buttons were worn, the numbers missing, the smooth texture unfazed by blush or foundation. Your paging call, the sound you made when my mother would hit the gray button stole me from my boyfriend or best friend, to return you to your rightful owner. You: a translator with memory lapses, a broken arm, a passing friend, and your numbers calling out to me way past their prime: 6375977, 6592263, 6372096, 6377065, 3283826, like little representatives.
5. Notes. I dumped you, notes, you papers, all college-ruled with nicknames and apologies and mundane records of my high school and middle school lives, drawn on and folded, into a very large plastic garbage bag. There was no room for you to follow.
6. Postcards. I’ve only received two in the mail this past year. Though throughout my lifetime, I’ve kept every one of you. You list inside jokes so old I don’t remember their significance, only that they were once significant. You advertised places I’d never been, though views I could see anywhere: melon-colored sunsets, cerulean oceans with sailboats grazing the shore, a cactus plant I could have probably found at Sara’s Farm Market. Postcard, your contents were less-revealing than notes, your images were crisp. You told me other people’s memories.
7. Mailbox. You hold very little to me, now, (except at Christmas-time) but I still recognize the importance of your station. You are the reason I always ask my husband, “Did you get the mail?” or the reason I insist on checking every day, even when I find an empty tin box. When I was younger, the mailbox offered a promise of trendy magazines, made for devouring in one sitting and kept until I realized they would never be read again. You identified me, placed my name in hard black text on white glossy paper. Back then, you were the reason I had an address. Mail was proof there were papers destined only for me.
8. Cash. When I turned ten, my parents bought me a drawing desk. It was large and white with an attachable black lamp and two side compartments that held art supplies. I was excited to stock it with office supplies. When I reached in my purse (yes, I had one of these then), I found fourteen sticks of Fruit-Striped gum and twelve singles. I chewed that gum so fast, two sticks at a time, until it lost flavor. You, cash, had worn over, now soft as leather. It pleased me to fold you, and straighten you, and crinkle you in a ball. Yesterday, on campus, students were fundraising for the homeless, and those around me responded: “I don’t carry cash.” I thought the same thing myself.
9. The canvas SUNY Brockport bag. I kept you from when I was ten until I graduated from college. I cut holes all around your opening, linked the holes with a blue combination lock, and kept my journals inside. You were durable, and I didn’t have to write “Keep Out”– you made that apparent to anyone.
10. Maps. You came with me to Florida when I was nineteen. I drove with twin friends and a fluorescent-yellow-haired girl I didn’t care for. You were there during my breaking point, Map. After we’d lost ourselves in West Virginia on the way down, I navigated the whole way home. (Didn’t everyone lose their way in West Virginia?) Yellow-haired girl insisted we head South from Florida to New York, while I insisted we head North. It was that simple. I showed her your blue veins traveling up towards Lake Ontario, and she finally agreed, her hair swooshing as she guffawed in self-deprecation.
To be continued…
Next: penny candy, dandelion stems, cassette tapes, etc.