The desk wobbled. It did from the time my parents brought it home from the “you paint it” shop. It wasn’t the desk I’d choose — in fact I’ve never chosen my desk — but it served me well for homework, writing essays, struggling with math and journal writing.
The journal began as a regular assignment in Mr. Dennison’s Chemistry 11 class.
“Journal writing?” other students asked. “What does that have to do with chemistry?”
Of course it didn’t but Mr. Dennison was keen to release our teen angst in words. For most of the students, the creative tap was not easily turned. For me, a torrent was released each night at my desk downstairs in my cold room.
What I remember most was the freedom I felt describing my fears, excitement and the trauma of being a teen. I trusted Mr. Dennison. He had given his word that the journals we handed in would remain confidential — just he and I.
And he wrote back. Each week he’d return our journals with a comment in red ink. Not critical, never correcting spelling or grammar, just commenting on what he thought.
So began a dialogue that lasted all year. I’d fill skinny, slick covered notebooks before moving on to a sheaf of looseleaf paper. I seized the long and narrow offcuts my dad brought home from a printing plant and wrote long and narrow journal entries, experimenting with large typefaces and coloured ink.
Mr. Dennison began writing longer comments, sometimes adding his own pages. The other students were aghast. What could he be writing to me? We also wrote lab reports on our experiments and memorized the periodic table but it was the philosophic discussions we shared in words that I remember most.
Someday, I thought (my 16-year-old brain) I’ll read all the entries and write a book! Or at least understand myself.
Forty years later the box with the journals is in the garage. Unopened. Unread. Carried from my family home with the wobbly desk to my first apartment, then to the house I shared with Denise, next door to the dark studio, to Wade’s three-storey townhouse, to the downtown loft and the West End walkup with the blood stains on the door. The box moved with us to Rose Crescent and later, to the house across the street, and then to the new house on Rose Crescent. And then with trauma, to the basement suite on Palmerston.
The box is yellowing now, weak and shabby. It usually sits at the back of my closet until more moves. To the house on 22nd Street and then downtown. And back to the North Shore, settled once again as a homeowner. And then downtown again to Olympic Village and now, at last (the last stop), Oak Street.
Perhaps it’s time to open the box and read what I knew 40 years ago.