By Christa Romig-Leavitt
When I was a freshman in high school I met another freshman.
(Isn’t that the hook-iest of all hook sentences? It just screams, “READ ME!”)
I should have started like this -
A long time ago in an old gray, stone high school, I met a girl named Amber. Amber would only live in my hometown for 1 year but I remember that year of friendship with her with fondness and an intensity only students in high school can produce.
We actually would be friends for many years. We would be in each other’s weddings. We met each other’s firstborn child, she a son, me a daughter. Life has moved on and so have we. Not that we aren’t friends any longer. I believe we are but we aren’t current - unless you count Facebook and that only sort of counts - fixtures in each other’s lives.
One thing Amber taught me was how to have a notebook.
This spiral-bound notebook is still in my possession today. It is full of the best penmanship my hands were capable of and it is full of words. Not my words. The words of others that spoke to our young, teenage girl souls.
My notebook begins with this poem,
My Cread (spelling from my notebook)
I have to live with myself and so,
I want to be fit for myself to know,
I want to be able as the days go by,
Always to look myself in the eye.
I don’t want to stand with the setting sun
And hate myself for the things I’ve done.
I want to go out with my heart erect.
I want to deserve all men’s respect.
But here in the struggle for fame and self,
I want to be able to like myself,
I don’t want to look at myself and know,
That I’m bluster and bluff and empty show.
I can never hide myself from me.
I know what others may never know,
I see what others may never see.
I never can fool myself and so,
Whatever happens, I want to be,
Self-respecting and conscience free. Anonymous
The back cover of the notebook has my writing in the bottom left-hand corner. It reads, “Finished, March 27, 1997, 2:18am”
The last 4 poems are written by other young women I went to high school with.
They include the words, “emotional schizophrenia”, “spiritual arthritis”, “seclusion” and a stanza that reads, “Dream of a place where butterflies and dolphins gracefully follow you and a tiger’s roar is the echo of your favorite melody.”
I graduated from high school in May of 1997. So this notebook is perhaps better than any yearbook to record my progression through most of my teen years. 4 years I spent trying to follow, lead, stand out, fit in.
I have another notebook with fewer quotes in it. It isn’t handwritten. Well, the beginning several pages are but then it turns into printed pages from emails. I had my first email as a freshman in college and it makes sense that as I progressed through my college career I would pack these 2 notebooks and move them with me but that I would quit writing, quit printing and leave blank ¾ of the notebook.
I have a hazy memory of keeping them for a couple of reasons. One being that I wasn’t ready to part with them.
The second in case I had children who might be interested in these words as I was.
I have shown these notebooks to Stella who is not even a week into her teenage career. She kindly took them into her room. I saw her glance through one. One time. She gently brought them to me a few days later. She was finished. She doesn’t need them. Or want them.
I think that made me a little sad.
But, the older she gets the more I learn that she doesn’t need what I needed. She is on her own travels and I can only journey so close before I will hinder and not help.
So, I won’t even keep these for Dayli to glance through.
I was going to burn them. It seems a romantic way to get rid of the pages. So, they lived by the backdoor for a couple of weeks. It seemed to always become windy just as we would be ready to start a fire. Then they lived on my desk. Because the truth is I am still tied to these notebooks. They were a part of my discovery of myself. They have lived with me for just over 20 years.
The other truth is that I don’t remember what is written inside. The truth is I also don’t need these words anymore.
I think I am going to recycle the notebooks. Ashes or paper pulp they will still be turned into something else.
And yet. I am sad to leave high school Christa behind. She was scared and brave. She was ugly and beautiful. She hadn’t a clue about anything at all.
The truth is the notebook will not be kept. I wouldn’t buy it at a flea market. I would caress it’s cover. I would glance at the words and have a memory of high school. But I wouldn’t bring it home.
I have been making a home for something that will be thrown out.
And now I will be both creator and destroyer.
Shouldn’t I be the one to say goodbye? Isn’t that the most respectful thing to do to these pages I touched and turned?
So last night I ripped and yanked the pages out of the green notebook. This morning I ripped and yanked pages out of the blue one. I tossed them into the recycling bin in our garage.
And as I did so I did have to turn off a small part of my brain that was saying, “What are you doing?! Why? These notebooks take so little space! You could totally keep them!”
Deeper Truth is that I need to let death come to the pages of words so that other words can be collected that speak to my soul.
We need death more than we realize and more than we like.
I celebrated this death with the collection of these new words that live on my desk.
Everything You Do Is Sacred
Now is the time to know
That all you do is sacred.
Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child’s training wheels
To be laid aside
When you can finally live
….Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.
This is the time
For you to deeply compute the impossibility
That there is anything
Now is the season to know
That everything you do