I spent this weekend in my hometown of Bainbridge, NY, visiting my parents and one of my older sisters. For the past two years, Mom has been asking me to clean out the closet shelves in the bedroom that used to be mine and is once again theirs. I have avoided this task for a variety of reasons but decided it was past time to tackle the clutter of memorabilia and ephemera.
After spending a fun afternoon with Mom, laughing and looking though old photo albums and scrapbooks, I have the following observations:
1. Mom saved EVERYTHING! Concert programs, report cards, notes from teachers, my kindergarten play program, newspaper clippings about me, music competition reports – I haven’t even made it through one entire shelf and I can’t believe how much there is. I am the youngest of six daughters. Did she do this for the others too?! If so – how on earth did she find the time?
2. I was a social butterfly who needed constant reminders to stop talking and focus on school work. Report card after report card, the comments are the same, along the lines of, “Denise does well when she pays attention and doesn’t socialize during class.” At 40, I still prefer to socialize. Some things never change.
3. How fortunate I was as a child to have teachers and adults who recognized my abilities and never let me use my disability as an excuse. In all of the notes and reports to my parents about my scholastic performance, never once did I see something along the lines of “Denise does well for a girl who has a disability.” I grew up believing in myself because others believed in me, and so many of them took the time to tell me with notes that, of course, Mom saved. We should send more letters and notes to the ones we care about.
4. I should have paid attention to those music judges at all of those solo competitions who saw talent in my young musician self! I started taking violin lessons in kindergarten and once I hit third grade, I participated in New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) reviews. Each and every NYSSMA violin report says the same thing. “Nice tone. Keep your left elbow under your violin. Keep your pinky and thumb in position on the bow.” I’m not kidding – every year. Oh, the judges said many other kind suggestions for improvements and gave compliments on what I did well. I know why I held my bow the way I did. My disability prevented me from holding it “properly.” Thank goodness Mrs. Niles didn’t hound me about this or I never would have kept up with lessons all through senior year!
5. I feel sorry for those who did not have the experience of growing up in a small town, going to a small school, progressing with the same 64 kids from kindergarten through graduation. These forever friends know all about me, and they still like me as much as I still like them. Time passes, but we get together and we instantly pick back up right where we stopped.
There are more boxes and albums to go through. I promised Mom I would come back for another round of clean up. I can’t wait to see what we find.