The following is a writing exercise from the book Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life.
Starting with "I remember", write until you come to a stopping place. Then start with "I remember", and go again.
It's a different kind of piece for me, with no forethought, no planning, just following my pen. As I watch my adult and almost adult children making choices, it's good to travel this road again, in my memory. The place where it takes me isn't so scary, after all.
I remember the sound of slamming lockers and the throng of people hurrying to class. We were grabbing books, passing notes, trying to beat the one-minute warning bell. I got caught kissing a guy enthusiastically outside a classroom during break, and was reprimanded by a favorite teacher. I don’t remember if the guy was named Tim or Todd.
I remember writing a poem about Wes and Jeanette. I used to watch Jeanette in class as she French-braided her long blonde hair in minutes. There was a joke in our group about cream-of-mushroom soup, and mushrooms being fungus, not vegetables. We passed that soup can from locker to locker for weeks. I recall eating in the cafeteria for lunch, or going off campus to Sonic. I sometimes sat through the lunch hour in Larry’s black pick-up truck listening to the same Survivor cassette tape over and again. I don’t remember which song it was or why it was so important to me.
I remember checking Larry’s locker between classes for a jacket, a note, or his keys. I remember he could always get out of Mr. Gay’s class with his laminated blue slip. I would look up at the math class windows from his truck outside and wonder if Larry was watching me. I consoled him time and again, when he and Lynne broke up---his mirror sun glasses masking his eyes and making him look to tough to care. I cried on his shoulder when Jason and I broke up, and later when the other guy from drama class dropped me. I don’t remember that guy’s name, either.
I remember T3, a trio of girlfriends who met in choir class. We attached ourselves to each other immediately. Tauna, Twyla and Tammy---we weren’t best friends, but we were close. We wrote the T3 symbol all over our notebooks and the notes we passed in the halls. I sang “Father’s Eyes” for Tammy during some kind of ceremony. Was it a rainbows thing? It had something to do with the Masons but, I don’t remember now.
I remember Twyla dated J.P. Blackwood. He was on the debate team, and was a really funny guy. He had a friend named Butch who was absolutely gorgeous. Butch sent me roses to school one day, and when he called me that night, he didn’t mention them, so I didn’t either. He later told me he drove to the school after dark, and peeked into the windows to find out if the office staff had neglected to deliver them. I recall kissing Butch on the front porch of my house on Madison, and the day he, J.P. and I met after school to go to the electronics store and check out the new, compact disc. I was amazed that this little silver thing would replace cassette tapes and records, and was almost indestructible. I remember riding to speech and debate tournaments, and Butch was there, on the team, on the bus. We always sat together and held hands for the whole trip. We didn’t date for long. I don’t remember why.
I remember working at Sonic just around the corner from my house---filling cups with soda, lining up tickets, and bagging onion rings. I hated cleaning the shake machine and walking on wet floors in my black tennis-shoes. I always called my mom to let her know I was walking home at midnight – the equivalent of three houses away. My clothes never smelled of anything but burgers and grease and milk from the shake mix. I enjoyed working with one manager in particular, Delbert Briscoe. He had a million stories to tell, and was a great boss. I used to make onion rings early on Saturday mornings, with the red-haired lady whose baby grandson was named Jeremiah. She called him Miah for short. I don’t remember her name.
I remember Larry used to show up on random weeknights, and order a Route 44 vanilla Pepsi, with extra vanilla, easy on the ice. One night he kissed me behind that Sonic, when I was supposed to be walking home in fifteen minutes. I can still feel the softness of his lips, and see the smile on his face. I asked him why he’d done it. He said he just wanted to see if he could. We never dated much in high-school, but he kissed me anyway. He still kisses me that way, sometimes. I don’t remember whether I was late getting home that night.
I remember my high school years. I made choices of my own, and came to regret some---like the night I lost my virginity in the front seat of a car. I thought I was in love with a boy. We dated for several months, though I don’t know whether he was faithful to me or not. I remember my mother saying that she didn’t think he was the one and the heartache when he finally cut me loose. I recall a notebook of his poems, and a black sweater, and sneaking off to the auditorium to be alone. I destroyed that book of poems in college. I don’t remember what happened to the sweater.
I remember the guilt that haunted me for years, because I chose attention from guys over God’s plan for me. I felt ashamed and dirty because I’d had sex outside of marriage. I decided I’d always have to settle for less than His plan, because I had messed everything up. But, I remember the day I realized that His mercy was enough to wash me clean, and give me back His best plan, again. I don’t remember all of the mistakes I made, but by His choice, God doesn’t either.
I think I’ll always remember that.