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Scary Moments: Reliving the Life You Dismissed

Posted Nov 18 2012 8:51pm

Do not mess with 2yr old Dez…

I had the pleasure of experiencing going through everything I owned. All 29yrs of it. It was heartbreaking.

My mother had just purchased her first house and I could no longer keep my tangible memories in storage at the apartment I grew up in.  I’m not one who saves everything, so I saved what I thought was very little. Given all the things I have done in my short life and given the fact that I love to throw things away.

I figured it would take me a few hours, maybe a couple of days to go through everything and save what I really wanted. It took a lot longer than that. Not only because I didn’t realize how much I saved, I just assumed it was so little because I didn’t remember half of what I owned. I have lived in over 8 different apartments in the last ten years. I have moved 12 times. I am a master at packing and moving. But I am used to living with my every day survival items, and purge my ‘memories’ at my mother’s apartment. So each move, was another box here, another bag there. until there was almost two rooms full of my memories I forgot about.

On a more personal level, I didn’t remember most of these items because I didn’t want to remember them. So my first instinct was to just throw everything away without even taking a glimpse at it. My mother advised me against this. Not only for identity theft reasons, but for pure nostalgia. It is good to remember where you came from.

Let me explain a bit of where I came from:

Born an Airforce Brat, first Maine then Las Vegas and finally settled back into my family roots of Boston. I lived in the projects (bricks) from 6-12yrs old. The exact same apartment that my mother lived in and that my grandmother lived in. We moved down the street, literally, to the ‘nicer projects’ from age 12-19. I was a Project Kid, not to be confused with a Hood Rat. Even we had a hierarchy.

(That arrow was my kitchen)

We played outside. All the time. Mostly in the clothes yard and never out of ‘yelling’ distance of Mom hanging out the window.  Every project kid knows when you heard your name echoing off the walls a few blocks down, loud and drawn out ‘Deeeeez uuuuuuuh raaaaaaaay’…. it meant your ass was grass and you better run home. I usually ran by the church (St. Catherine’s) one last time and say a quick prayer before I went before the firing squad.

I had a good childhood. I had good parents. My brother and I were the lucky ones. I played CYO softball with the other project kids. Before Charlestown had a huge renovation, we used to play in the construction sites. Mountains of dirt and cement blocks scattered around.  We always got snagged on the reinforcement rods we’ve never seen before playing king of the mountain. How some of us didn’t die, is beyond me. We didn’t have technology stuff to keep our minds at ease, and we had the option of staying home and watching TV, but WHY? We wanted to be outside running around like lunatics. We knew everyone’s dogs. Before there was a leash law, we used to just hang out with the dogs who decided they wanted to just walk around the neighborhood too. Tattle tale adults were everrrrry where. Everyone knew everyone else’s business. We couldn’t do a single bad thing without being caught and have Mom find out in 5 minutes.

I used to hang out on the project roofs and talk about life with my bff at the time, Erica Martinez. Her Mom was even more strict than mine. Puerto Rican Moms and Irish Moms are terrifying creatures. We were ten years old and discussing important facets of our lives. Where was our life headed? What was our plan for beating the blue team on Saturday at softball? What time did Saved by the Bell come on? Erica stole some cigarettes from her Mom’s boyfriend….and we were gonna smoke them. And talk about just how severe our lives were. We were the coolest ten years olds on the planet in that very moment. I turned down smoking  a few times. Not because I know I could die from them, I knew I would… because my mother would kill me.

Our discussions slowly faded away from Lisa Frank stickers and Selena to ‘Who were we going to beat up next and what boy were we going to chase around for the afternoon’. Let’s go throw some shit in the harbor! Let’s break glass bottles and run away! Let’s play ding dong ditch! Let’s….. smoke some cigarettes. We went to our favorite roof top and I had my first cigarette at age 12. Marlboro Red, which is everyone’s first cigarette.  I hadn’t even put out my cigarette yet, which I was positive I wasn’t even smoking correctly, and I heard it…. ‘Deeeeeez uuuuuuuuuuuh raaaaaaaaaay!!!’.

I saw my life flash before my eyes. I run home and up the stairs and I let the steel door shut hard to alert my mother that I was there. There she was at the kitchen table with my Grandmother, who was even more terrifying. “I’ll give you ONE chance to tell me why I’m upset.”  I stood there, shaking. This was the worst god damn game ever….

She stood up and smelled me. “Cigarettes!?? Yah smoke’n cigarettes!??” What happened next was all a blur. My face was stinging and I was face down in my pillow in my room crying my eyes out. Grounded for all of eternity…..

That is just a fond memory I have of project living. I have much more abrasive stories, like when I watched a 20yr old girl OD from heroine in front of my door, or when my brother found a dead body, or when I used to get beat up by the hood rats, or walking by another pharmacy getting held up. But that’s another time and not how I like to remember the projects.

But these are the memories I have that stay with me. Tangible memories were never really my thing. Sure I would save the occasional piece of garbage from a boy I liked, or a cool stone I found while out adventuring with friends (aka, drinking at the tower in Medford).  I got really good at throwing things away. Luckily, my Mom doesn’t throw anything away and I was thankful for that this past couple of weeks.

I saved a lot over the years, notes from 7th & 8th grade ( oh god, I could embarrass so many of you ;) ), pay stubs from my first job when I was 15. Every single college notebook I ever had.  Every test. All my ROTC documents. Every trophy, every ribbon, every plaque, every award. I knew I would have to start selling/donating and throwing away a lot. Staying emotionally detached is very helpful for this. I donated probably close to 15 bags of clothes. I sold things on craigslist. I sold jewelry at pawn shops. I sold the nice stuff through consignment. All these “things”, no longer meant anything to me. I took photos of trophies and awards so at least I had some evidence, and it doesn’t take up space. If there is anything I hoard, it’s books. But I donated over 75+ books, and that was very very hard for me to do.

I found my dreaded  ’Ex-Box’. This shit you keep when you don’t want to burn it like you did with the rest of the stuff. This got me a little choked up. Not because of lingering feelings, but at one point in my life I meant this much to these boys/men. And at one point, they meant a lot to me.  Old hoodies, favorite band t-shirts, special books, cards…sooo many cards, love notes, mix tapes AND CDs, tickets from concerts, funny odds and ends of silly times. I went through it and threw away a lot of stuff, got rid of memories of certain ones all together, but just kept a couple things to remember that I am lovable.

It took a few months of mostly just sifting through all these ‘things’ that came into my life for one reason or another. And now I had the task to decide what was important to me now and realize what was no longer part of my life.

Things I mostly kept: anything my mother gave me that was special to her. Every photo I owned. Books my father gave me (mostly Stephen King and books about airplanes). Those ridiculous notes from junior high. Uniform shirts from all the sports leagues. Old journals. Stuffed animals from before I could even walk. Anything that my brother and I had funny memories over, (Itchy, Cooler and Bowzer!). Mostly, if I picked it up and it made me smile, I tried to hold onto it.

So here is my life:

7 storage bins of memories shrunk from almost 2 full rooms of junk. 29 years of a life very well lived. Here is what I deem important to never forget. Besides what I have in my room and apartment -my every day living stuff – which also isn’t very much. I can continue on with my life with baggage that only fills up 7 bins.

I found some pretty good gems a long the way. I didn’t snap photos of everything, maybe I’ll do that later.

The Stand, was my comfort for my early teen years. The tv-movie series and this book. The small classic books on the right, I used to read under the covers with a flash light when I was about 8 or 9.

The Egg Book, was my all time favorite book of my entire life. Still is. My parents would read it to me over and over and over again. I had my mother hold onto it. This picture will ultimately become a tattoo on my arm. I’ve dreamed about it for years. So…. tattoo artist friends, if you’re interested let me know!

not my proudest moment, but it was the was the mid 90′s and I wore JNCOs and puka shells….gimme a break.

Sigh, a proud moment in college. My only failing grade ever.

I owned Every.Single.One.

And my mother gave me this priceless gem. From the 80′s. I have never been prouder to wear it.

(Yes Meghan, you can borrow it)

So, I learned a lot about myself through this period of sifting through the museum of my life. Definitely scary to conjure memories of what made you the person you became. Often times, I block things out for a reason. It was hard to see the tangible  moments of life that I dismissed so many years ago. But it really gave current Me a wide awakening. And more importantly, I made room for more memories…hopefully not the kind I just shove in a box.


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