From Where I Sit – Simpler Times

In December I committed to the 30-day Minimalism Game. About a year ago Edmonton Journal writer, Fish Griwkowsky, took the challenge and documented it weekly in a feature story. I found his journey fascinating (in the way motor vehicle collisions are fascinating) and marveled at his willingness to expose himself in this way. A year later I was ready to go for it.

The challenge is based on the urgings of Joshua Fields and Ryan Nicodemus aka The Minimalists. Their philosophy has led to a website, books, speaking careers and an appearance in the Netflix documentary, Minimalism. The premise is that on day one, you get rid of one item. On day two, two items; day three, three items; and so on until day thirty, when you get rid of thirty items. ?Getting rid of? may mean donating, selling, trashing. The idea that the stuff must be out of your house by midnight is hooey in my opinion, especially for those of us without easy access to a thrift shop.

I loved the playfulness of the challenge. One of the more bizarre things I came across was my old autograph book. Is it full of celebrity autographs, you ask? Hell no. It’s got corny verses and childish handwritten messages from classmates. And, no less than NINE from my youngest sister, who would have been about eight at the time. Thank God, she signed them with our family name or ?your sister, Gail? otherwise I would never have known who the little pest was.

Dated entries tell us this treasure is circa June 1968. The pale pink cover and faded gold embossed fleur de lis design speak to its age. It’s held up surprisingly well.

The real gift of this find so many years later is the glimpse back to a time of simplicity, innocence and naiveté. Today classmates are sexting each other. In 1968, a racy entry was:
Dear Hazel,
You can’t make love in a garden,
Because potatoes have eyes,
Corn has ears and
Horses have tales.

Or: My dear Hazel,
I love you great; I love you mighty
I wish your pajamas were next to my nightie!
don’t blush! don’t get red!
I mean on the clothesline—not in bed!!

Or: Dear Hazel,
God made apples,
God made trees,
God made girls,
For boys to squeeze.

Many of them had an added note: Yours until Russia get Hungary and fries Turkey in Greece! Or one of these gems: Yours until butter flies!!! Yours until the kitchen sinks! Yours until Niagara falls.

This one from a priest’s wife at a 1970 church summer camp offered some insight:
Dear Hazel,
True friends are like diamonds
Most precious but rare
False friends are like autumn leaves
Found everywhere.

Good luck trying to get an autograph book today. They don’t seem to exist outside of Disney. Maybe with the return to all things nostalgic, they’ll enjoy a comeback like vinyl records. In the meantime, I can ache for simpler times, from where I sit.

Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.