10 weird things I found in my basement

We bought a house! Which means that the past few weeks have been spent reckoning with the basement, which for several years we have treated as a vast concrete dumping ground. Here are some of our most notable finds while packing for our move:

1. A pair of never-used rollerblades Purchased during a hopeful bout of self-improvement, I wore these once, humiliatingly, around my block, my only protection from the asphalt a pair of wrist bandages I bought shortly after diagnosing myself with carpal tunnel syndrome. Have you ever seen a video of a dog on roller skates? The look on its poor dog face of indignation and terror? That was me. I never wore them again.

2. Santa piñata  A gift from my sister, along with a five pound bag of Mexican candy, this was going to be the centerpiece of our annual New Year’s Eve party, but it was too cold to follow through with our plan of stringing him up outside the garage and beating the crap of out of him. I didn’t like the idea of hanging him from the ceiling fan inside, either--too sinister--so instead I slowly ate my way through the entire five pound bag of Mexican candy while Santa remained in a wheely chair in the basement, his blank stare unnerving me whenever I went downstairs to do laundry.

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3. Baking powder, cupcake holders, and a frosting nozzle  Another fruitless attempt at self-improvement; this was from the time when I was going to learn to bake.

4. The plastic tiara from when I was queen of the 2005 Northwest Side St. Patrick’s Day parade The tiara is all I have left; the sash was torn off of me at the Emerald Isle by a drunken “fan”.  That's all I'll say about that experience; it requires a separate blog, if not an entire book-length memoir.

5. Ancient cell phone from 2004 The miracle was that it still turned on, briefly,  revealing a text message in which I got dumped by an old boyfriend.  This was almost ten years ago: well before it became somewhat socially acceptable to dump someone over text.  This guy was a true pioneer, I guess.

6. Copy of Wuthering Heights from high school, with copious annotations and underlinings of romantic passages That is the typical life of the high school girl: you yearn for a Heathcliff, but what you get is a stoner who wears Birkenstocks and a drug rug, and whose idea of a good date night is renting Con Air and watching it while you do his math homework for him.

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7.  Lesson plan from my first day of student teaching  Completed on a yellow legal pad, it has mapped out everything I was going to do and say: “Step one: students walk in. Stand at the door if possible. Smile at them but not too much. When they are all sitting, say, ‘hi, everyone, I’m your teacher.’” You can see my sweaty fingerprints on the corners of the pages.  I remember how nice the kids all were to me that day.  Clearly, they pitied me, and with good reason.

8. Case-Logic containing my CD collection from the 90’s For every CD that reassures me I was cooler than I remember: Liz Phair, Smashing Pumpkins, The Pogues, Soundgarden—there is a counterbalancing CD that reminds me that I wasn’t: Sandstorm and Other Club Hits, The Practical Magic soundtrack, single of Brandy and Monica's The Boy is Mine.

9. You can’t really call yourself a Catholic unless you’ve got these dudes floating around your house somewhere…

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10. A boatload of detentions from high school, most for the smallest of infractions, and all written in the telltale loopy, old-lady handwriting of my English teacher/ arch enemy/ teenage life destroyer, Mrs. Wallace.   If only she could see me now that I’m the one destroying lives and writing detentions! Two major differences between us remains, though: I don't wear ankle-length wool skirts or hate children.

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    Jessie Ann

    Jessie Ann is a writer and high school English teacher from the Northwest Side of Chicago whose first novel, The Carnival at Bray, is forthcoming from Elephant Rock Books in fall 2014. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and holds an MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Salon, xoJane.com, The Madison Review, The Chicago Reader, McSweeney's, Great Lakes Cultural Review, Hypertext, Sixfold, Word Riot, Hair Trigger and other local publications. She lives with her husband in the Jefferson Park neighborhood.

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