Thursday, March 22, 2012

Time Machine

The brown cardboard Rosenblatts suit box I pulled out of my cedar chest this week is a time machine. Taking off the lid transports me to the summer of 1968 when I spent ten life changing weeks traveling around England and the Continent. I left home in June a reserved seventeen year old girl and returned in August a confident young woman.

Sorting through this box of letters and ephemera has been on my to do list for a while. An upcoming memoir writing class pushed me to dig out the box and empty the contents onto the living room rug to be sorted and savored.

I am intrigued by what I saved from my adventure. Receipts from souvenir purchases and travelers check transactions; tickets from There's a Girl in my Soup and Fiddler on the Roof; London transit system passes; champagne corks from a topless midnight matinee at the Lido in Paris; a collection of toilet paper stamped with a variety of messages such as - Government Property, City of Westminster, and Now Wash Your Hands Please; a Pam American menu: a tin of raspberry candies melted into a sticky glob; an assortment of foreign coins; miscellaneous brochures in French, Dutch, German, Polish, and Italian; and best of all at the bottom of the box, a bundle of thirty-seven letters I wrote to my boyfriend (later husband #1) and parents.

I carefully unfold the thin blue airmail paper and insert each letter into a sheet protector then place them all in order by date in a three ring binder. After losing the journal of my trip in a college classmate's car in 1971, the letters are a precious written record of my journey.

In an effort to save paper and airmail postage, most of my margin-less writing requires a magnifying glass to read. Frequent references to homesickness are balanced by gushing descriptions of the Rosetta Stone; Anne Frank's hiding place; Paris at night; paintings by Rembrandt and van Gogh; a candlelit concert in Chopin's living room; the Berlin Wall; Russian tanks invading Czechoslovakia; a tram ride up an Austrian mountain; a party at a nightclub in Rome; and walking on the Apian Way.

In one of my last letters to my parents I say:
Thank you for giving me this opportunity - it's been a real education. I'll be a little different when I come home, older and more grown up. I've had to work out problems on my own. It's hard - just what I needed. This has been the MOST WONDERFUL SUMMER POSSIBLE, but I'll be HAPPY TO COME HOME.
There is a lot more to discover in the tiny writing done so long ago it almost seems like another life. I'm eager to travel back in time to learn more about the girl of the past and the woman I have become.

I'm the 6th white suited salt mine visitor from the right.

1 comment:

  1. What a treasure box of a time machine. Excavating ourselves is exciting and terrifying. Looking forward to your personal archaeology.