After I graduated from high school, I went through all my things and discarded large swaths of my childhood. I donated a big box to my friend’s father’s favorite cause. They had a fundraising garage sale every year. I also renovated an antique trunk to store all my important childhood things in. I prepared to leave home, but I don’t remember doing much to prepare myself for college.
My mother did a lot of that. The college sent a list, and that summer I would come home from work to discover things had been purchased. I still have the stapler she bought me, and I probably haven’t yet gone through the box of staples that came with it.
One of the things that we did buy was a fan. I was thinking this was bought in Boise, but it might have been one of the items we waited to purchase when we got to school. If that was the case, it came from Walmart, which was the only shopping option in Nevada, Missouri. If not, I think it came from K-Mart.
And this was my fan, for years and years afterward. When the weather cooled off, I disassembled it and put it back in its original box. It was mailed back to Boise when I finished up at Cottey, and I mailed it from Boise to Amherst when I went to UMass. Then it traveled back across the country in the moving truck when I left Somerville.
I haven’t used it the last few years. Matt brought home an oscillating fan from work that is in better shape, so I haven’t gone through the ritual unboxing and assembling. We were cleaning out one of the sheds and I decided it was time to let it go. Thanks fan, for keeping me cool all those hot and humid summers. And thanks, Mom, for making sure I had what I needed for college.
I was very resistant to the compact disk. I loved records, particularly loved 45s, and hated how CDs took over and the 45s disappeared from the stores. I hated that they were more expensive than records or cassettes and it drove me crazy that everyone made the switch. They didn’t sound THAT much better. I didn’t start buying CDs until 1997, when my college boyfriend was getting rid of his old boom box (we might have still been calling them ghetto blasters then?) and asked me if I wanted it. I said yes, and bought a few CDS. One of them was “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Soundtrack Volume 1,” another was The Brian Setzer Orchestra, “Dirty Boogie.”To this day, I can’t listen to either of those CDs. I played them too often to ever hear them again. (Though I still enjoy certain songs of Ella Fitzgerald’s from that album.)
I can’t say I loved this boom box, it was more of a means to an end. But for the past decade I’ve felt warm feelings while looking at it, remembering the things I liked about the college boyfriend, remembering being young in the big city of Boston, cooking dinner and listening to my CDs. There are so many things I don’t miss about that time in my life, but it was the time I was young, and I’m happy I got to be young, living in an old town, trying to figure my post-college life out.
There is an imagined parallel life that is running constantly in my mind. One where I got married and had kids when my mom did. If I’d replicated her life, my daughter would be 12 now, and my son 10. I remember being 12 and that things in my childhood that had always been there started to wear out and be replaced. It felt weird to have new dishes when we’d always had the white ones that were wedding presents. I think about how maybe that imaginary daughter would be astounded to see something leave that had always been there, something that she had spent her childhood playing CDs, before she discovered streaming.
Or maybe she wouldn’t have noticed.