Tuesday, August 26, 2008


A few years back my mother gave me a big cardboard box containing all of the things from my childhood that she had saved. I was amazed at the stuff she kept, especially considering she had five kids, and especially considering the fact that I have not managed to save one single momento from my own kids' childhoods thus far. Well, except for Oliver's umbilical cord. And I didn't save that; Nik did. I came across it one day, amidst all of our important documents, looking all black and raisin-like in a sealed ziplock bag. I didn't know what it was but it's location alone made me wonder if it held some importance. So I called Nik into the room.

"Do you have any idea what this is?"

"That's Oliver's umbilical cord."

"Why are we saving it?"

"I'm not sure. It probably fell off one day when you were at work and I figured you might want to see it."

"That was five years ago."

"Well, there you have it!"

And the really funny thing is that after holding on to it for five years, I couldn't bring myself to throw it away. So I put it back on the shelf and there it sits.

Holding on to things is like that. But I'm not sentimental at all so only the most important keepsakes manage to stay around for any real length of time. Well, actually, the umbilical cord is pretty much it at this point.

Anyway, back to the box. My mom held on to these things for 25, 30 years and then dumped them on me. It took me a whole afternoon and a couple of hefty garbage bags, but I made my way through most of it and only a couple of items remained in the "keep" pile. My very favorite Raggedy Anne doll. One school photo from every year. And one report card.

Then I put the things away and didn't look at them again until tonight. I was looking for my university diploma and tucked away inside the leather folder containing my graduate school diploma was this one saved progress report from 1979. I was ten. On this single, saved piece of paper, my homeroom teacher, Mrs. McAleer had compiled my Strengths and Weaknesses in four subject areas: Math, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts:

Math, Strengths
Likes to participate
Volunteers in class
Does neat work

Math, Weaknesses
Lack of complete concentration
Tendency to bother others during a discussion
Lacks confidence in math basics
Tendency to do what she wants during a lesson

Science, Strengths
Average work but testing of knowledge of facts is above average

Science, Weaknesses
Daydreams in class
Misses easy questions when called upon

Social Studies, Strengths
Alert most of the time

Social Studies, Weaknesses
Acts absent-minded
Talks a lot and disturbs others
Doesn't follow directions
Raises hand to answer simple questions and give inaccurate answers
Constantly tries to go ahead on projects and gets confused
Control problem

Language Arts, Strengths
Ability to arrange events and sequence
Self-expression shows clarity and imagination
Comprehension of reading assignments is high

Language Arts, Weaknesses
Previous inability to organize is progressing.

I'm guessing I wasn't every teacher's favorite pupil. And I don't know why my mom didn't freak out about this. It certainly indicates that I was having some troubles. Maybe she was just tired -- a single mother raising five children. Or maybe she just believed in me. Maybe she saw things the teachers didn't. But what I do know is that this progress report never made a dent in my consciousness. I was never made to think I was just this bundle of strengths and weaknesses.

When I showed this to Nik tonight he laughed and said: "Yeah, that pretty much sums it up!" And it's true! I still don't have confidence in my math basics!!! I still tend to do what I want. I still daydream, I'm still absent-minded and I still have difficulty organizing (but I'm progressing. Honest.).

When I tucked my diploma back in the box where I found it, I left the progress report out. I think I'm going to hang it in a place where I can look at it more often.


  1. I got a box of saved stuff from my mom not too not so long ago also. In my keep pile was my Holly Hobby rag doll and two report cards. Kindergarten and 7th grade. In Kindergarten my teacher wrote that I was extremely quiet. In 7th grade my teacher wrote how I talked too much in class. Yes, we all do change and grow and progress.

  2. Anonymous8:06 AM

    Must be the week for it! My mom sent me a box with my long-lost high school yearbook and a bunch of old photos. She's still hanging on to my report cards, though if she would send them to me, I'd frame them and hang them on a wall. "Doesn't apply herself" and "Not working to the best of her ability" were my constant comments in elementary school.

    Yes, it's a good reminder in light of what our kids go through.

  3. Anonymous8:33 AM

    So you were a daydreamer in school too, eh? :-)

  4. I love this post. The report card is awesome, and I find it comforting in a funny way.

  5. For some reason I love the comment "Alert most of the time". That's actually my goal these days.