“I’ve been sifting through the layers” since this weekend. I’ve thrown away large chunks of my past that I never thought I’d part with. I’ve seen a Gary I had forgotten about, whom I almost didn’t recognize.

Kinga and I spent the weekend at my folks’ place, and I spent some time Sunday going through things that have been packed up for ten years, things I’d saved throughout my adolescence and my parents dragged from house to house as they were house-hopping the last few years. It was all stored in the giant blue plastic storage boxes you see towering above the isles in K-Mart and Wal-Mart — all the Marts, I guess.

Amazing how treasure can turn to trash with the passage of time. In the end, I emptied almost three whole boxes, throwing out everything from old letters to college papers and most everything in between.

Most of what remained was toys from my childhood, things that my mother had saved long after I’d wanted to toss them out. “Fine,” I laughed Sunday. “You’re responsible for storing them, then!”

What was shocking was the number of letters I’d saved. When I was growing up, I had a friend who, after answer a letter, would throw it away. Me, I’d stash it in a box especially for that.

“Why? You’re not going to read it again,” my friend exclaimed.

“I might!” I never did, but it always seemed sacrilegious to throw out something as personal and intimate as a letter. A private, lasting conversation with me, and no one else — how could anyone toss that out?

Very easily, I discovered Sunday.

Also among the treasure and trash was an old notebook that I carried about during college, scribbling random thoughts here and there — a sort of portable journal, for I’ve always kept that on the computer. To flip through it for the first time in probably nine years was to look at myself more directly than I’ve done in a long time. Random thoughts inspired by bumper stickers and books, quotes, silly attempts at being witty, sillier attempts at being deep — it’s all in there:

  • I blow moisture from my mouth and nose at 200+ mph and receive a benediction for my efforts.
  • Ollie North lost his bid for Virginia Senator, restoring some of my hopes that we are an intelligent species.
  • “God is my co-pilot.” Bonhoeffer would hate that. God should be the pilot, not co-pilot. “Co-“ means shared control.
  • Perhaps we should spay and neuter some humans.
  • If reality bites, can I get rabies from it?
  • A poorly organized protest is more likely to appear as a temper-tantrum than a legitimate protest.
  • All new cars are beginning to look the same.

One entry in particular was striking, for it took up a few lines and a few moments to write it, but ended up affecting nine years of my life. Indeed, the rest of my life:

I am sending away for information about the Peace Corps. It would be a huge commitment, but I think it would teach me a lot, more than could be learned around here… (Wednesday 20 July 1994)

I ended up staying three and a half times as long as the two year minimum. I met my wife there. I found a second home.

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