Treasure Trove in the Scary Basement

6 Jul

My poison ivy blotches are definitely drying up and beginning to fade. The worst spots on my wrists are no longer lumps—they’ve flattened out and are flaking a bit. I still itch, but it’s diminished somewhat.

This evening, I distracted myself from itching by having an adventure in my parents’ basement, looking through boxes and bags and sorting paraphernalia from my past—particularly books, magazines, toy animals, dolls (most of which I made), and craft supplies. I had a pile of “Recycling,” piles of “To thrift stores,” and piles of “Ship to me.” I found this project remarkably fun and exciting, despite the dust, dirt, and mouse turds. Much of the excitement came from curiosity—“I wonder what’s in this box”—and from revisiting my past and finding items that I remember but haven’t seen for a long time.

I started this adventure yesterday, in the afternoon or evening, and at that  time primarily found books. I was especially struck by the vast quantity of Doctor Who books, almost all novels. The oldest ones belonged to my brother; as teenagers in the 1980s, we read these novelized versions of real episodes. However, many more of the Doctor Who books belong to my sister and date to the 1990s and early 2000s, before the new Doctor Who series began in 2005. I could ask my siblings if they’d be willing to let me ship the Doctor Who books to Powell’s in Portland; we have many Who fans, and it’s the largest independent bookstore supposedly in the world.

Many of the items I’m shipping to myself are books from my childhood and adolescence that I’ve decided to donate to the In Other Words lending library. I also shall attempt to sell some of my old dolls at In Other Words, since the community center sells consignment.

One of my most exciting finds was a cloth doll I made in my mid to early teens and that I named Flora the Flapper. Back in Portland, I already have a box full of her clothing—a colorful and varied wardrobe fit for a flapper; my mother sent me that box within the past few years. When I saw the contents, I was dismayed at not finding the actual doll. But today I found her, wearing yet another smashing outfit, and with a long beaded necklace.

Something that struck me upon finding paraphernalia from my adolescence and childhood is how drastically my interests and tastes have changed. Granted, maybe they’re not as drastic as that statement implies. Certainly the colors I preferred in fabric (and hence in doll clothing and needlework projects) were, strangely, blue and green rather than red, orange, and purple. I found many Garfield the cat books, calendars, and stuffed toy animals. I even found a large stuffed toy Alf and at least two Alf puppets. I didn’t hesitate to sort all these items into “To thrift stores.” The same goes for many of my old books and crafting magazines. Though I do still enjoy crafts and needlework, I certainly wouldn’t be caught dead with some of the cutesy and country-themed magazines and projects I encountered, that as a teen I found attractive. However, I still have a taste for Victorian style, despite my more recent passion for Asian culture, so I intend to keep a few old needlework magazines and unfinished projects. Part of aging and maturing and gaining wisdom can be, at least for some people, a change in aesthetics and passions.

When I tell friends about my adolescence, I generally talk about how I was a social reject and didn’t have much of a social life, which gave me more time for creativity, imagination, and reading. I tell friends about the books I read as a teen, and about how I wrote many short stories and poems and wrote my first novel. I also have told friends and acquaintances that I designed and made dolls as a teen and probably even as a pre-teen. However, until I looked at certain items from my past, I’d practically forgotten how wrapped up in needlework and doll making/designing I truly was. This sank in when I found a large plastic bag full of (mostly Victorian) doll clothing I made, mostly in my early teens.

I haven’t finished boxing up paraphernalia to ship back to Portland, and I haven’t even finished looking through all the boxes I intend to investigate. Covered with sweat, I took a break at about 9:30 this evening, shortly after noticing a large cardboard box filled with what looks suspiciously like books and magazines from my adolescence. The adventure will continue tomorrow.

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