The last few papers to be cleared from my desk
included printed e-mails from my daughter, from a time when I never got to see her often enough, and missed her a lot. I'd collected the copies in a binder, stacked stuff on top of it, and forgot it as my pack-ratty paper stack grew to obscene sizes. Today was The Day I was going to go through the whole stack, file what had to be filed, and send the rest to the recycle box in the garage. All was progressing nicely until I got to the folder of e-mails, and decided that I would put them away with other memorabilia in what I call my "Rosemary Box."
I call it the Rosemary Box after a poorly-remembered segment of the lives and times of archy and mehitabel by Don Marquis in which the roach and cat and the Dalai Lama climb Mt. Everest:
not while i have this rosemary
it is for remembrance
I wish I could either remember the thing completely or find a copy of the book, for another character goes on to say "yes and rue is for you" and kicks the rememberer several thousand feet down the mountain, while yet another adds "and larkspur is for cooties" elevating the conversation to one of my favorite scenes in literature.
Anyway, I dragged the Rosemary Box off the back of a shelf in the studio, and pulled the tape off. I don't remember when I sealed it shut like that, by the way, but it was a good idea due to the dust in the air here. The first thing I saw were a couple manila envelopes marked "Rosemary" and then some copies of my high school "newspaper" with my illustrations in them, and then treasure upon forgotten treasure emerged from the box. Photos from my Air Force Cadet Drill Team days, pictures I drew for silliness in grade school and junior high, graphics that I did for a commemorative book about the 1972 flood, for a yellow pages ad, for newspaper advertisements. My high school diploma, cartoons sent to me by my friend Bill and more by my friend Melissa; a whole folder of cartoons from junior high, absurdly adolescent attempts at humor that made my old face blush -- was I ever that goofy?
I found drawings for a coloring book that I had illustrated for some fishing club that I had forgotten existed. A watercolor of a dog we had for a few days. An ABC book I had started for our daughter when she was an infant -- I don't remember if I never finished it, or if the pages were lost. I found a story I must have written in 7th grade, a hokey Western, and a partial poem of rollicking adventure on the high seas. There was a love note from my husband written during the early days of my pregnancy, as well as a skinny, sassy fellow in a photo -- with long golden hair.
Carefully folded into a photo folder is the very first real drawing our daughter ever made, a drawing I've sighed over many times in my life, thinking it had been lost or destroyed in one of our many moves. There it was, precious and wonderful: a magenta creature that she told me was "a happy dancing frog."
The desk is now covered with stuff sorted into piles from the Rosemary Box, and the computer work area, and the dresser, too. I've been scanning the pictures that are too precious to leave open to the air, and some of my artwork as well before it goes into protective plastic sleeves. Maybe by tomorrow I'll be able to put it all away again, but not tonight. Some of this stuff bears more reflection.