21 March, 2010

My Life in a Pencil Box


Eagle Marker. I took this from my dad when I left for college. I found it on the dining room table under a stack of mail that looks so much like the stacks of mail I have now. I never understood how a person could have that much mail, or how you could lose a check made out to you, or how something might get sent in late or not at all. I could not imagine ever having such a complicated and messy life. My empathy has taken so long to develop.
Pink eyeliner pencil I took this from my mother's makeup drawer when I left for college. I'm fairly certain she didn't really use it, as I recall her wearing a smoky blue/black, but I also took a Clinique dry/wet eyeliner set too, just in case. My mother is beautiful and I always hoped I would grow up to be as pretty as she is. When I first tried makeup in 7th grade, the only comment she made was "In a little while you will see that you are wearing way too much makeup and that you're much prettier with much less. Come to me when you want me to teach you how to put makeup on." Three days later I learned how to use a soft sea sponge to put on foundation...
Gap pencil This one is before they even changed the logo, so it must be from 1989 or 1990. I started working there in 1989 and didn't leave for 11 years. I met some of the most wonderful people and learned a lot about business, management, communications and how to make friends and influence people.. no seriously, I did.
U.C. Berkeley ballpoint I bought this pen when I went to ASUC for the first time as a student (that's pronounced AY SUCK for those of you who didn't go to Cal). I then went and bought a gazillion dollar Shakespeare anthology and realized I would not be able to afford another pen until 1994 at the earliest. I still have that anthology. The first flowers Descartes ever gave me are pressed in that book. We were just friends when he gave me those flowers, it was more than a year after that when we started dating, and they are the only flowers I have ever pressed in my life.
Montblanc (totally fake) I bought this for myself around Christmas my freshman year of college when I was a) feeling sorry for myself and feeling dramatic. or b) having a moment where I just knew that if I had the right pen I would be the best poet/storyteller/novelist on the planet. Probably a little bit of both. I have a small blue-papered journal somewhere that "goes with" this pen. I carried them both in a leather mail bag that weighed 20 pounds empty. I carried these items everywhere, and pulled them out to furtively scribble poems and essays while on BART, all over San Francisco, and back in Berkeley at one of my favorite people watching spots, Cafe Milano or Caffee Strada.
Posterman pen from my sorority days. That place was more polarized than the U.S. House of Representatives on Health Care Reform vote day. I was the song chair at one point, and made all sorts of posters with the words of ΚΑΘ songs on them. That pen smells so much that I nearly passed out while making those posters, even in my most beautiful "fishbowl" room (I shared with an older girl who was in an a Capella singing group with me. She had more 'points' so we had an awesome room).
Waterman pen (with my maiden name engraved on it) I worked so hard for this pen. I was in the Internship program at Gap. It was fairly new, like perhaps I was the second or third year that it existed? Basically if you followed all of the rules, learned all your stuff, performed magic tricks and smiled all the time, you would graduate college and become an Associate Manager. As a graduation gift our Regional Manager gave us each a pen with our name on it. I always liked that regional manager, even when others didn't, which is kind of odd considering she was very tough, super exacting and had expectations for us that were above and beyond what was expected for our level. When I graduated I was an Associate Manager for three weeks before I got my own store. It was not a prestigious store, but my District Manager told me flat out, "jennyalice, sometimes you gotta take one for the team." So I did, and I learned a LOT, mostly about myself.
Google pen I stole this one from Descartes. (It seems I am thief when it comes to pens?). It used to have a cool light in it with red, blue, yellow and green (Google logo colors), but it must have burned out some time in the last 10+ years I've had it. Perhaps it was the first piece of Dot.com swag in our house? It reminds me of my Life With Endless Possibility that was before. It helps me remember things like Big Promotions, being newlyweds, and drinking late into the night on the evening Inktomi went public.
CMD pen I briefly worked at CMD after I left Gap. There were some very talented people there, but I never really fit in with the company personality. They are a Portland based company, and it was the height of Dot.com-everything-moves-very-very-quickly. I could never figure out why I was so frustrated until Descartes described Portland once after driving around for six hours waiting for me to finish my once-a-month meeting in the home office. I asked him how his day had gone and he said, "I feel like a tiger in a cage full of bunnies."
Waterman pen Descartes bought me this pen the first year we were married, for my birthday. I was so surprised and happy that he would know exactly what I would want... I also couldn't find my Gap pen at the time...I remember that the blue Waterman box was actually wrapped and had a bow on it. He took it out of his Cabella's mail bag, the green canvas one with the brown leather accents. That was back when his bag was really just his bag, and he wouldn't have dreamed of ever needing to get something out of my purse. We still had parts of us that were completely, completely, separate. It also reminds me that we used to actually buy presents for each other. I mean buy presents for each other that the recipient didn't know about until that person unwrapped the gift. Sadly, as good as my memory is, I cannot remember the last time I received a wrapped gift, and I know I have not wrapped a damn thing for Descartes in years, except perhaps a sandwich in some plastic.

There were other pens and pencils in the ratty zip top bag, including colored pencils which Lucy needed for her art project this morning. Grabbing for those pink and silver wooden sticks, her hands pushed past these little flashes, these pieces, past my very own tranche de vie narrative. I was sort of stopped there in each of those moments, thinking, then listening to the little voice in my head,

"Oh my God, jennyalice. You really need to clean out that desk drawer more often."
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