Mistake

During my Spring Cleaning last week, I found a notebook. I’m sure you have a few of these in your boxes, too… class notes started in earnest but lost or abandoned for one reason or another. It’s always easier to keep the notebook intact, rather than tear out the useful pages, but you end up opening the box twenty years later and realizing you’ve been hauling around two dollars’ worth of spiral-bound blank paper, and it’s hardly been worth it, even on a calories-expended level.

I threw away a lot of my old class notes last week. It was tough, but once in the permanent Outbox, I didn’t miss them. The effect was virtually immediate.

Occasionally, something pops up in my collection that isn’t actually mine.

I opened this particular small notebook and found Chemistry notes. I’m always a little taken aback when I see my mother’s handwriting again… this was probably from the middle 1980’s, when, determined to not be home alone and craving mental activity, she began taking classes in the hope of obtaining a degree in marine biology. From the ground up.

This is the first page in the notebook, and there are only a few words on the second page, which reads “1907 Milligan – all electrons are identic” and then nothing more. It’s almost as if, before she could finish the word “identical”, she had a stroke… but that came in the winter of 1985 on a ski slope, not in a classroom.

As I said, a notebook with only a page or two occupied is not an uncommon thing, but I learned long ago to flip through blank pages just to be sure. Same goes for loaning books; you wouldn’t want a letter or old photo doubling as an improvised bookmark to go missing.

So I flipped through and was about to… but there on page 57 was something unique. My mother’s hand still present, but odd in tone and precision. Highly unlikely, but… could she have been drinking?

“I await the site of your car.
You said you would be here by 2
but sure such is youth, it is 3:47 now.
It doesn’t really matter that much,
although?, in your relarench reflertion
referacnce, dinner is at 6:30 so
anytime before is OK.
And indeed it is, OK., but it has
been quite such a short time
you’ve been away at school, if
“school” is what I can call college,
and I miss you so, you can have
aways breathe life into yo my existence
& I truly miss yourselve, your life
pulse, your m–oic, your tempo.”

This is unlike anything I have ever seen my mother write. The misspellings, the line-throughs, and the poetic nature of it are unheard of.  But there it is. I marveled at it, and having skimmed it over a few times, I assumed it was a late-night missive to my father, perhaps when they were young and in love.

Until today.

Today it dawned on me that page 57 had to have come after page 1. That this particular loneliness had to have come after the attempt at chemistry. Drink did not affect her, but stroke or chemotherapy or some other treatment had. Or perhaps the treatment of her by her son, away from home and busy with women and jobs and a newer life, had the biggest effect of all.

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About ernestwhile

I live in New York City. I built a world of Lego bricks, colorful and simple and foreign. I've been picking it apart ever since.
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8 Responses to Mistake

  1. ernestwhile says:

    I follow a wonderful blog called “Noteworthy” here on WordPress. The URL is http://isitnoteworthy.wordpress.com/
    Notes passed in high school seem to be a little more lighthearted than notes passed through time, and I hope you find them as valuable a tonic as I do.

  2. How truly haunting… reading the handwritten scribbles and realizing they were to you. I love the sadness in this.

  3. Becky Doughty says:

    A woman who has poured her love into a child will come to goodbye with rending grief, no matter how proud she may be of this triumph. A hello, even for an afternoon, is succor to her soul, and sometimes the only way to express the overwhelming jumble of emotions is in a collage of scribbled words. Don’t ever loose that page – it is the piece of her heart that belongs to you.

    I’m so glad you found it and I hope it inspires you to continue writing – you sound a little torn open to me but let it be the pinnacle on which your pen is balanced before it falls into your words.

  4. Noteworthy says:

    This is an extremely special find. Reading this made my day. Want to know the one thing that continues to haunt me in my nostalgic treasure-digging? Torn pages from notebooks. Where did they go? To whom? What did they say? Does someone still have them?

  5. The Hook says:

    Very honest, raw piece of work, my new friend. Well done.

  6. Hyacinth says:

    I thought she was writing to you from line one.

  7. Marian Green says:

    I pop by and reread every now and then… This still touches me at my core.

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