In a fit of moving on while home from my first summer in college, I went to toss out the shoebox full of notes that housed the documentation of my relationship with my first love. This box, full of hundreds of folded squares of narrow rule, contained the most intimate details and mundane exchanges of that charged first foray into romance. Unceremoniously, I placed the box in the trash.
I was surprised to return later that evening to find the shoebox not in the trash, but on the desk in my childhood room—full and intact. This was the doing of my father, and when I questioned him, he simply said he thought I might want it someday. I was taken aback by this sentimental gesture by my decidedly unsentimental father and set the shoebox back in the closet.
Despite the effort to save it, there is no trace of the shoebox 15 years later. It must have finally been tossed in a move. With no hard evidence, all I have are the memories of a teendom spent writing detailed notes day in and day out that shaped all of my early loves: the first romantic ones and the passionate friendships of adolescence. Plans were made, alliances were formed, and there was a real art to the communication: colors and handwriting and I’s dotted with hearts. There was poetry and humor and a paper trail to put it all together again and remember.
In almost all of the scenes of my adolescence, I have a note in progress: curled up on my bed, hidden in an open math book during class, folded in the vents on my locker or rattling around in a perfect triangle shape in my pocket. My dad was right. I wish I could take a look back at the stories my friends and I weaved and the dramas that unfolded through the different looping scripts of girls and the slanted, halting letters of boys.
I wonder what my kids will miss without good old-fashioned notes as the language of late childhood? How will they fall in love with the one-liners and emoticons of texting?
When I think of romance and texting, I can only refer to my iPhone relationship with my husband. Granted, we’ve been together since the turn of the century, but my most recent text exchange with my life love involved a picture of a grub on our driveway. We were wondering if we had a problem in our yard. Texting makes it all too easy to lose any sense of sentiment. A note would have never been written on the topic of lawn grubs, I promise you. Even when we’re getting cozy via text, the best we do is “luv u.”
On the other hand, paper notes really allow people to dig deep and find elements of themselves and their young hearts in a way that can’t be replicated by technology or even the spoken word. Yet this art form has faded fast over the last 15 years.
The last major pop-cultural nod to notes occurred in the famous Friends episode, “The One With the Jellyfish,” when Rachel wrote Ross an 18-page note (FRONT and BACK) explaining the terms upon which she was willing to take him back. That episode captured the note experience so well that I don’t even miss my shoebox.
Like in Friends, I have been the recipient of note soliloquies that have resulted in joy, heartbreak and frustration. I’ve delivered them, too. Say what you will, but the message got across in those situations with no air space left to attempt to decipher what the other side meant. Hearts went to paper, then sleeve.
How does that happen now? I don’t get it.
I realize love found a way before language was put on paper, and I understand that love will carry on when we no longer use paper at all. I am just curious to see how my kids will do it, where they will find the subtleties and how they will express them to one another on their phones. I haven’t found a way to do it.
I need to work it out on a piece of loose-leaf.
I’ll just have to trust my kids to figure it out their way while I text my husband to get the dry cleaning (emoticon wink).