Hat on Top, Coat Below


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December 21, 2002

Random Acts of Journaling:What is something, or someone, you’ve misplaced and want to find again? Why?

For a long time I missed my essays from a writing course I took in college. Near the end of the quarter, the professor had us hand back in all the papers we’d written for him so he could review them to determine our final grade. Whatever procedure he’d decided on didn’t include giving them back to us before classes ended and we all went home for the summer, but he said if we gave him a self-addressed envelope with sufficient postage he’d mail them. So I trotted off the post office at the Union with an envelope filled with the same number of pages as my papers and got the right stamps to put on it and turned it in, trusting it would be just a few weeks until I’d have it back in my hands, filled with my fabulous work. I never saw the envelope or my essays again. As the type of person who saves most everything, and especially final drafts of papers, this unsettled me. My set was incomplete, and I couldn’t fill the holes. (Remember, this was back in the dark ages, before personal computers; we typed our papers on typewriters, not onto screens that would save them on a diskette). I was troubled by questions. Why had I trusted him? Why hadn’t I made photocopied them before I handed them back in just to be safe? (Well, I knew the answer to that—I was a poor college student and every expense had to be carefully considered). Had he really mailed them, or was the whole thing just a scam to get free stamps? When I found myself back on campus during the summer, I stopped by the professor’s office; he wasn’t there, but a big box of papers was sitting outside his door. I looked through them—they were essays written for his classes, but none of them were mine. When classes started again in the fall, I thought about going to see him, asking where my papers were, but decided against it. He was a flaky guy and I didn’t think he’d give me a straight answer even if he could remember what happened. I somehow managed to complete my college career despite the lost essays, and now I don’t miss them. I have plenty of other things I wrote during those years that I never read; the absent essays would just be more clutter for me to clear at this point.

Something I’m afraid I might have cleared and now want is a basket mom made and gave to me. I’ve decided it would be just the thing to keep in my sewing room (also known as the dining room, but the only one who’s eaten there in a long time is Bubba, who takes his exercise there and snacks on carrot pieces between bursts of running around) to collect the scraps from my quilting projects. I used to know where it was, but now it’s disappeared. I have this sinking feeling it might have ended up in the donate pile, mistaken for another basket, one that came with a floral arrangement and was just sitting around getting dusty after the plants died. Could I really have done that, given away something my mom made for me by hand? I hope not. My family’s got precious few heirlooms—is that because the generations that came before did stupid things like this? Of course maybe the basket is just stashed in the basement somewhere, moved down there in one of my fits of clearing surfaces upstairs, but I’m afraid to go look in case it’s not. So I don’t look, and my scraps form an untidy little pile on top of the microwave cart that hasn’t been used for the microwave since 1990, and I tell myself the basket will turn up. In this case, ignorance is not bliss but hope.

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