So while I'm going through Purgeathon 2009, my mother has been doing her own home purging in preparation for a bunch of visitors in town this weekend for my uncle's wedding. And despite the fact that I'll be the only one staying in my bedroom, she's used this as an excuse to clean out my closet.
This has been going on for a few months, and every time we cross paths she sends me home with a box or two filled with old stuff for me to go through and either get rid of or return to her for further storage. Last night I poured myself a large glass of wine and broke into the most recent collection of Rubbermaid tubs.
The first was easy: a bunch of old purses, most of which ended up in the Goodwill pile while the rest went into my closet.
The other two were filled with the most random crap: old jewelry boxes with cheap kiddie jewelry, 20-year-old baseball caps, old school projects, greeting cards from schoolmates and my parents, Magic Eye books, etc. At the very bottom of one tub, pinned below a 1,000-page book on the history of the Catholic church in West Tennessee (it was a Confirmation gift -- it's going to the used book store) was a photo, one that had seen some wear and tear.
It's a photo of my high school sweetheart and me. The one whom I'd gotten together with and broken up with probably two dozen times before deciding I was done with him for good upon arriving at college. My first love. My first everything. He's got his left arm around me, and his right arm is stretched out taking the picture. We've both got big smiles plastered across our faces.
The funny thing about this photo is I cannot for my life remember taking it or when it was taken. I can look at most any photo of me and tell you when it was taken and under what circumstance. Not this one. Judging by the way we look and the clothes we're wearing and the fact that the car he got for his 16th birthday is behind us, I'd peg it to the beginning of my sophomore year. I could be an entire year off, though.
But I keep going back to our smiles. They're so ... I don't know ... real. Most photos I see the subjects have fake smiles -- not necessarily bad smiles, just smiles that were obviously put on for the camera's sake. Say cheese.
I just wish I knew what we were smiling about. Were we just doing a really, really good job of faking it?** Or were we genuinely happy about something?
Now, here's why finding that photo last night was kind of uncanny: I had gotten a text message from him earlier in the day. He and his wife are pregnant. I knew what the occasion of the text message was before my phone even buzzed to announce its arrival: 'IT'S A GIRL!'
By all measures, I should be bitter. Here's my first love making one of the happiest announcements of his life (he's never told me, but I know for a fact he wanted a girl) while I'm all the way at square one when it comes to having a family of my own.
And yet I smiled. A big smile. A real smile.
Maybe, just maybe those smiles in that photo were because of a secret that only our subconscious minds knew: that one day long after our lives went opposite directions we'd still be friends sharing important news. And still smiling about it.
But lest I leave you with the impression that we have just a perfect little friendship, I should say this: he still manages to annoy the crap out of me after all these years.
**We were involved in this performance at school one time that required us to dance with each other in front of an audience. We were told after the fact that we did such a good job looking like we were so into each other. The funny thing is we had just had a humongous fight, and I didn't look him in the eyes the entire time. I looked at his forehead.