Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pigman in the Archives

Recently, I unearthed a box load of papers from my high school years (1976-1980). For more than thirty years now, I have haphazardly archived a diverse assortment of tests, absentee passes with teachers’ initials on their backs, schedules, report cards, school notices, etc. Thumbing through this stuff didn’t exactly bring back fond memories. Foremost, it made me wonder what would become of it all this stuff when the grim reaper came calling. And I think I know the answer.

High school ephemera in my voluminous archives are just the tip of the iceberg. I have saved through the years countless bits and pieces from the times of my life. And since I’m not Thomas Jefferson, Michael Jackson, or Babe Ruth, my labyrinthine, dribs and drabs paper trail will not likely be of interest to too many people. When whoever comes around to clean out my closets and dresser drawers, a scrupulous inventory of all that I have left behind will not likely occur. I’m certain that anything of value will be promptly located and quickly separated from 1977 high school Spanish tests and student handbooks informing us boys that our hair should not touch our ears or the back collars of our shirts. (My high school, Cardinal Spellman in the Bronx, did not literally enforce this overly strict hair rule in the late 1970s, which was an era of mop tops and pretty long hair as a rule. I know this because I violated the handbook’s written dictum for the entire four years. The powers-that-be did nonetheless have a “your hair is too long” standard that they willy-nilly enforced by threatening transgressors with “get it cut or we’ll cut it for you.” I recall a peer of mine asking me if I was told to cut my hair. When I said no, he said that he was given the haircut ultimatum, and that my hair was a lot longer than his.)

I have thus reevaluated the business of archiving my life and times. Separating the memories’ wheat from the memories’ chaff, I’ve begun paring it all down and recycling what—at the end of the day—merits recycling. My mission: to spare my heirs—sometime down the road—having to unceremoniously discard this man’s life in one fell swoop.

Of course, I will pick and choose items worth saving—like my report cards for instance—and do away with such things as impossible to understand Geometry tests and lamely written English essays. (If the tests are any indicator, I have forgotten an awful lot of stuff since high school.) I will, however, think long and hard before scrapping such things as handwritten, mimeographed quizzes, like the one on The Pigman, a book by Paul Zindel and freshman year required reading. I don’t suspect there are too many teachers penning tests in their own hands these days, and then mimeographing them for distribution. As I see it, The Pigman test transcends one mere student and assumes an historical importance—one worth preserving for future generations to appreciate. Really…throwing stuff out can be a very complicated affair.

(Photo from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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