Among the ancient relics that have come to light in the continuing sorting and decluttering of all that we brought with us (!) in the move, there is this little pile of my old school reports. That’s right. Not our children’s school reports which we filed away without much thought, but my school reports dating from 1958 to 1967. And I find myself asking the question: Is this normal? Does everyone hold on to their school reports even when they’re in their late 60s? Why not just chuck the lot of them into the recycling bin?
And then I find, that this obvious thing to do with these fading old papers meets a strange resistance. It tells me quite a lot about the child I was, and the adult I’m supposed to have become, but mostly feel I am still hoping to become. One day.
As a child, I wasn’t brave or big or strong or confident. I wasn’t popular or good at sports and games. It always felt like popularity and sports ability went inseparably hand in hand. (It still does feel like that, pretty much.) I couldn’t throw or catch or run or jump. I couldn’t sing or act, or dance or play a musical instrument. Later on when it began to seem important, I wasn’t one of the boys who found it easy to talk to girls or get a date. My lifelong fear of asking people to do things has something to do with the scars left by all those girls who said “No.” In short, I wasn’t good at all the things that seemed valuable or desirable, especially the physical things like sport. (Did I mention I wasn’t good at sports?)
In fact, the only thing that set me apart, in the admittedly limited intellectual pool of those North London schools, was that I was quite good at the academic stuff. I could be Top of the Class, and usually was. OK, people called me Brainbox and Four-Eyes - nowadays would surely find even more inventive and painful things to call me - but it meant they noticed me. There was something I stood out for.
I think that’s why I’ve kept those things forever. And even though I like to think I am past caring what other people think of me (self-deceiving as ever!) that’s probably why I may still be like Bilbo trying to leave the Ring behind. I may think I’ve thrown them away, and find not too long afterwards that they are still there, in some drawer or file, somewhere in the new house.