Huguenot Street Cipher Books

According to the Ciphering Book Collection on the official Huguenot Street website, cipher books are handwritten workbooks that were used by students in the early times of education in New Paltz. Many students used these workbooks to learn mathematics, handwriting, spelling, and other disciplines. Most of these books date from the early 19th century and are bounded in cloth, leather or board. They are very old and the pages have turn a light brown. The cloth that was used to cover the book feels like cardboard, slightly thick. The sides of the pages have what looks like watermarks and the bottom of the pages are worn, from the constant turning of the pages. The majority of the books contain entries in English, French and Dutch. The math content in the books were typically simple operations such as addition, subtraction, measurement, and problem solving with several different currencies. As the pages go on, the mathematical operations become more complex with application problems, proportion, interest, decimals, fractions and more. Some of the application problems referred to events that occur in our history, which revealed social issues of the time. Religious and moral lessons, along with simple doodles were written throughout the books.

I was curious about how the curriculum of education began in New Paltz, so I was directly to In a Valley Fair: A History of the State University College of Education at New Paltz. According to the first few chapters of this book, the Huguenot landholders hired Jean Cottin as their headmaster when they settled in New Paltz in 1689. The school was connected to their church, and the headmasters were hired only if they were condemned as a good man, teacher, and true Christians. During the early order from the Classis of Amsterdam, schoolmasters in the Dutch colonies instructed their pupils not only in reading, writing, ciphering and arithmetic, but also in the customary form of prayers. This would explain the writings doodled into some of the cipher books. There was a mantra that was spotted in some of the cipher books, including in DuBois’ cipher book, which I will explain more later on. The school curriculum in 1812 was limited, so it was mostly reading and writing. By 1827, subjects such as math, grammar, and geography became the common branches of public education. In 1828, a group of leading citizens founded the New Paltz Classical School, which began its sessions on the second floor of the Common School. The classical school was meant for the higher class, with more money because those who supported this new school were decedents of the original families: Deyos, DuBoises, Eltings, Hasbroucks, and LeFevres. Those who attended the classical school, paid more money and were taught Greek, geography, history, natural philosophy and math. Those in the regular English schools were taught grammar, French, reading, writing, arithmetic, bookkeeping and elocution. Education in New Paltz in the late 18th/early 19th centuries was largely focused on business and commerce, and was tied in with religious rhetoric. These next two ciphering books will demonstrate this in various ways.

The first Cipher book I chose to analyze was Josiah LeFevre’s from 1822-1824. This cipher book was part of an artificial collection, meaning that the donor is unknown and the Huguenot team put the book together. Carrie from Huguenot Street believes this cipher book might have been donated by Sadie Mott, but is unsure. According to Historic Huguenot records, Josiah was born July 7, 1810 and died December 15, 1888. He married his first cousin, Catherine Maria Lefevre and had four kids. On the left side of the first page of the cipher book, he writes “last of May or the first of June; May 31, 1822” and on the other, he writes “Josiah LeFevre his Cyphernbook May the 28th 1822 Tuesday. The arithmetick Printed By Nicoles Tike in the year 1809”. I’m not sure who Nicholes Tike was, but his name was on the inside cover. Maybe it was the author of the workbook he was copying problems from. The cipher book starts off with easy mathematical operations and then they get more complex.

Their long division looks like what we currently learn in schools except they had lbs:g:lbs on top of the equation. I’m not entirely sure why they wrote that before starting the problem. However, whenever Josiah starts a new concept, he defines it and its many rules before creating word problems for the concept. As I continued flipping through the pages, I noticed that their application problems were more about how to deal with purchases of a certain product. “By inventing the order of the _____, it will be 2^n. If ____ (illegible handwriting) buy all of sugar, how much will ___ buy at that rate?”. There were other word problems that spoke about picking up pounds at certain ports and delivering it to other ports for certain rates. These math problems illustrates the business and commerce life that kids Lefevre’s age were learning in school. There were also application problems involving our past history. One word problem said, “America was discovered by Columbus in 1492 and its independence was declared in 1776. How many years elapsed between those two years?”. The next word problem mentioned the Boston massacre and the Battle of Lexington.

There were also doodles throughout Josiah’s cipher book such as his initials throughout the book. At one point, he wrote the word “Ans” 32 times halfway down the bottom right side. Josiah also kept records of people who paid him for their bills through their bank accounts. It’s very detailed and it runs on for half a page with a chart. Josiah also compared federal money and english money as examples to a new concept. I did not understand why there was different markers on top of each amount and I wonder if that was how they distinguished their money back then. (insert pic) Midway through the cipher book, there were two pages of different measurements of products: ivory weight, avoirdupois weights (system that uses pounds and ounces), apothecaries weight (pharmaceutical measuring system), cloth and long measure, and time. The next two pages had land, square, solid, hhine, hole and beer, and dry measures. These must have been the different ways they measured the goods they traded and sold. The second cipher book was a lot like Lefevre’s, so I wonder if they were in similar grade levels or schools.

The second cipher book was written by Josiah DuBois in 1792. He was born on December 18, 1781, was baptized in New Paltz in 1732 and died March 11, 1869. He married twice and had many kids. Mr. DuBois was very successful in his early mercantile days and resumed the agriculture upon his ancestral acres, and lived for many years. He carried out his business in what is now the Jean Hasbrouck Memorial House, in partnership with Col. Josiah Hasbrouck. Mr. DuBois was also one of the original trustees of the New Paltz Academy and one of the owners of the Academy grounds. Josiah DuBois started his cipher book with the written words, “Numeration; August 20, 1792; Teacheth to read, Write, or Corprefs, any Number or turn proposed”. He then drew the place value chart up to hundred million. At the bottom of the first page, he wrote “ Josiah DuBois is my name/America is my Nation/New Paltz is my dwelling place and Christ is my Salvation/When I am dead, and in my grave and all my bones are rotten, when this you see remember me that I am not forgotten”. Unfortunately, the rest of that message was crossed out and doodled on top of and illegible. His message illustrates the closeness of the church in schools and in his life. This was the mantra that I had mentioned above that was seen in other similar cipher books. I believe that this saying was probably taught to students in schools, something they lived by, which was why it was doodled into their workbooks.

Josiah DuBois’s cipher book was similar to Josiah Lefevre’s book, except that DuBois’s book mentioned the selling of goods such as cloth and food, while Lefevre’s book emphasized on the money part of the business. In Dubois’s cipher book, there were word problems about buying or selling things such as, dog buttons at 3/6’/4 per dog. The problem asked DuBois to find the price, if he were to buy the whole. He also had two pages full of what his customers bought on a specific day. He had six different categories for who bought what. He had someone who was a cheese monger, milliner, carpenter, and baker. For example, he recorded all the products that Thomas Hantloy bought on May 19, 1793. The list consists of “raisins of the sun, malaga baifins, currants, sugars, sugar loaves, rice, black pepper and gloves”. Another interesting thing I found in Josiah DuBois’s cipher book was two poems on mathematical roots such as squared or cubed. One poem had 14 lines and the other had 20 lines, but both followed an aabbcc pattern. The first poem doesn’t make any sense no matter how many times I read it, however before the poem, Josiah wrote at the top of the page that this poem was a “Rule to be got by heart”. I can only assume he means they must memorize this poem to help them understand the rule to the concept of roots. As for the second poem, the first three lines says, “The cube of your first period take/And of its root a Quotient make/Which root into a cube must grow/And from your period taken fro, To the Remainder then you must”. I don’t understand what he was trying to say in the poem, but it looks like something that was taught in their schools to help them memorize rules and concepts. The last interesting thing I found towards the end of the cipher book was a Mariners Compass. According to Webster Dictionary, a Mariners Compass is a navigation compass that consists of magnetic needles permanently attached to a card that marks the direction and degrees of a circle. Josiah DuBois wrote down numbers related to the climate between the Equator and the poles using the compass.

Overall, both Josiah Lefevre and Josiah DuBois’s cipher books had many similar writings and methods to their education. I conclude that it was possible they could have been in similar school grades because the math was so similar. I am assuming that Josiah Lefevre’s education was more focused on the business aspect of commerce, while Josiah DuBois’s education seemed to be more focused on the actual goods they were selling. I may be wrong, but judging from the different kinds of word problems they were given, that was my conclusion. I have learned a lot in my research and I’m glad I picked cipher books as my topic of discovery because I am an Education major and learning about how schools taught back then, was fun to read through. It’s interesting to see what goes on in a child’s head as they are in school. It’s also fascinating to see the methods they used for learning and how it is compared to today.

Works Cited

Lang, Elizabeth and Lang, Robert. In a Valley Fair: A History of the State University College of Education at New Paltz, NY. 1960. 

Hedged, William. The American Decedents of Chretien DuBois of Wicres, France Part 3. Du Bois Family Association, Huguenot Historical Society of New Paltz, NY Inc. 1969, Revised and updated 1999. 

Roth, Eric. Cipher Book Collection (ca. 1730-1849), Published 28 August 1999, last updated 14 January 2013. 

Museum of Jewish Heritage

Carly Walsh, Olivia Porcari, Helen Zhang, and Ellie Condelles

The Museum of Jewish History began construction in 1994, after years of planning, designing, and gathering materials for the collection. Located in Battery Park in new York City, the museum is close to the statue of liberty and the world trade center memorial. Elie Wiesel was an honorary chairmen of the collection and part of the dedication ceremony on September 11, 1997. His contributions to the collection as a Holocaust survivor were a true inspiration to the museum, and continue to inspire after his passing in 2016. Wiesel’s memory was also honored during the museum’s 2017 International Holocaust Remembrance Day, where they paid him tribute through a live streaming of his book, Night. The Museum of Jewish History opened officially on September 15, 1997, with the mission to continue to educate others about Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust, focused on teaching the painful ways of the past to guide visions towards a worthy future.

The museum’s original cost was over $20 million dollars, not including expansions made to the collection over the years. Funded by generous supporters including, Heritage Members, Benefactors, Patrons, and Sponsors, the museum has a strong connection to the community. Tickets range from $8-$25 depending age category, whether or not you are a museum member and type of tour, providing visitors with a variety of options to choose from when planning a visit.

Every aspect of The Museum of Jewish History is designed to tell a story. It’s expertly crafted architecture speaks to the museum’s commitment to Jewish life and culture. The building’s six-sided shape and six-tiered roof rising 85 feet in the air are reminders of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, as well being reminiscent of the six-pointed Star of David. The location and physical environment of the museum were carefully chosen and planned: the museum overlooks the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (a reminder of American values) and is only minutes away from the 9/11 memorial (an ode to other tragedies). Wagner Park, adjacent to the museum, is conducive to the Hudson River landscape while still reflecting the Jewish concept of mysticism. Inside, the core exhibition is separated into three distinct parts, organized chronologically: Jewish Life A Century Ago, The War Against the Jews, and Jewish Renewal. The first floor explores vibrant and multifaceted Jewish life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; covered such topics as life cycles, holidays, community, occupations, and synagogues; the second relays the history of the Holocaust from the point of view of Jews who lived through it, using their own artifacts, photographs, testimony, and historical footage; and finally the third focuses on how Jewish individuals and communities rebuilt their lives after the Holocaust and continue to thrive in the 21st century.

The Garden of Stones is the most popular collection piece at the museum. Andy Goldsworthy wanted Holocaust survivors to see that there is still life and beauty after a genocide. The display is visible from every floor of the museum and has been placed outside on the terrace. Each rock has drill holes, where young dwarf trees are growing. They can grow up to 12 feet over a period of a decade. The trunk of the tree has molded itself into the stone, making it one and the same. When you look inside the hole, it’s not hollowed out, but rather the roots of the tree have inserted itself into the other parts of the rock. Andy Goldsworthy wanted his audience to see something impossible, like trees growing out of rocks. For a tree to grow out of a non-living thing, illustrates the ability for Holocaust survivors to grow even after what they have been through. A quote from the artist, “Amidst the mass of stone, the trees will appear as fragile, vulnerable flickers of life — an expression of hope for the future. The stone is not mere containers. The partnership between tree and stone will be stronger from having grown from the stone.” In other words, Andy Goldsworthy knew that trees can be seen as this vulnerable living organism, but it’s a living thing and therefore, it brings hope and life for the future. The stones are not just containers for the display, but rather supporters of the tree. Together they can be stronger, since they grew from each other. Andy Goldsworthy also meticulously chose the place of display outside the museum because in the distance, visitors could see the Statue of Liberty and remember the rush of immigrants into America, while remembering the lost lives in the building behind them. He wanted the visitors to see that there’s still happiness in mourning.

Eyewitness: Photographs of Holocaust Survivors is a collection of portraits of survivors who live in New York City. There are 31 photographs in the collection, which was the museum’s first public art installation. The images are all between four and thirteen feet high, filling the outside windows of the museum as well as the windows along the Reflection Passage on the third floor. The people in the images are members of the Museum’s Speakers Bureau and also served as the Gallery Educators. The first photograph is of Leon Gleicher, who survived the Holocaust, but lost every member of his immediate family: his mother, father, two brothers and younger sister. He was able to escape from a ghetto in Poland and ended up fighting with Russian Partisans. This photograph is an important part of this collection because it exudes notions of strength. The man in the photo is choosing to wear his yarmulke; he is choosing to reclaim his Jewish identity in a way that many may have been afraid to do. The smile on his face suggests contentment, and the wrinkles are the result of a life full of hardship and loss. The second photograph is a portrait of Inge Auerbacher. She is wearing the star of David, perhaps the star she was forced to wear doing the Holocaust. This star seems to be part of her identity. Her choice to wear the star after all these years speaks volumes to what she has experienced. During the Holocaust, she was forced to wear it as a marker of exclusion, isolation, and difference. Now, she wears it by choice to outwardly present her Jewish identity in a way she can be proud of. There are many more photographs, but we have decided to focus on these two.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage is a museum we recommend others to check out the next time they are in the city. There are lots of windows and natural light shining through, even though the lower levels are darker than the upper levels. Last time one of us went to visit the museum, the tour guide told us to be aware of our surroundings and how the light will change as we go up in the museum. The first floor was dark and had many artifacts and objects that were left from the Holocaust, people’s belonging and pictures of the concentration camps. As we ascended to the second floor, there was a little bit more lightening. When we got to the third floor, there was natural lighting and a few spotlights on certain photographs. The tour guide pointed out that the museum wanted to show that even though things were tough and ugly, eventually it got better, people survived and were able to tell their story to those who listened. On the third floor, there were artifacts and photographs from other genocides and how they were just as cruel and horrible. At one point, the third floor had wall to wall glass windows and doors where visitors could step outside to see the Garden of Stones. There was even a cafe where visitors could buy Jewish baked goods and sit and watch the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. It was peaceful and quiet on this floor and when visitors step out into the Garden, it’s a whole new space, that’s open and inviting. The Museum wanted visitors to see the devastation that the Holocaust had bought to many, but also the life it can bring when life goes on.

Bibliographies:

“Current Exhibitions.” Museum of Jewish Heritage, https://mjhnyc.org/current-exhibitions/.

“Eyewitness: Photographs of Holocaust Survivors by B.A. Vane Sise.” Museum of Jewish Heritage, https://mjhnyc.org/exhibitions/eyewitness-photographs-by-b-a-van-sise/

Rosenberg, Jennifer. “Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to The Holocaust.” 2 April 2017. https://www.thoughtco.com/museum-of-jewish-heritage-living-memorial-1779672   

Shapiro, Benjamin. “Andy Goldsworthy’s Garden of Stones.” Museum of Jewish Heritage, 30 November 2017, https://mjhnyc.org/andy-goldsworthys-garden-stones/

Peking Duck

Thinly, sliced roasted duck

I recently went on a shopping trip to Chinatown to stock up on Asian cuisine for school. I bought $50 worth of food and one of my purchases was half of a peking duck. Peking duck is a famous Northern Chinese dish originated from Beijing. The Peking Duck dates back to Ming Dynasty, about 600 years ago, where top chefs would visit the Emperor and cook for him. When the Qing dynasty fell in 1911, the court chefs left the Forbidden City and bought the Peking duck recipe and other delicious dishes to the public. The preparation of the Peking Duck is an interesting one. According to my research, air is pumped into the duck to separate the skin from the fat. Then the duck is hung to dry in open air before being roasted in an oven until it’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. In most places in Chinatown, the duck is served with rice and vegetables, over noodles or in a lotus bun with scallions and hoisin sauce. People can buy a whole or half of a duck, pork, or chicken. They can ask for it to be roasted or fried before it is to be cut into thin slices. A whole duck has to be sliced into 120 pieces and can be served with all sorts of sauces and sides at different restaurants.

Chef slicing the duck in front of clients

After some more research on where the duck came from, I found a website called culturetrip.com about white-feathered ducks that are raised in a free-range environment for 45 days, after which they are force-fed for 15-20 days. According to Britannica.com, this duck isn’t any ordinary duck, but specifically the Imperial Peking. Britannica also includes that the duck’s head and neck is left intact as the bird is killed at about six weeks old. Once they have been killed, plucked, gutted, washed and boiled, then air is pumped into the duck. The duck can be roasted in two different ways: traditional closed oven or the hung oven method developed in the 1860s. I did not know that they would go through such a horrible process but I love the dish so much, I never looked into how it was made. Peking Duck has been around for so long that it also participated in Chinese international relations through the 20th and 21st centuries. Political leaders and diplomats such as Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon and Fidel Castro have all been wined and dined by the Peking Duck.

Lotus bun with peking duck and scallions

I was introduced to Peking Duck when I was in China nine years ago. My grandparents took me to this restaurant for dinner and they served me peking duck in a fluffy, white, wheat bun with lettuce and scallions. I had never tasted something so delicious and flavorful. It was so simple but it was very filling. Ever since then, Peking Duck has become one of my favorite dishes to order when I visit the city. It’s hard to find Peking Duck up here in New Paltz and even though Hasbrouck has tried to replicate this dish, that’s loved by many people, they just can’t do it justice.  

Hongbao

Lunar New Year is an annual holiday celebrated by my family. This year, it’s the Year of the Pig. It’s the one day that we can all come together and forget our differences. We eat at a round table surrounded on both sides by family. Dishes of authentic Chinese food are whisked out of the kitchen and onto the dining room table. There would be roasted duck, snails, squid, all sorts of seafood, noodles, vegetables and more. Sometimes our family has a hard time getting along but New Years is always the one holiday that we can gather and make up with one another. I don’t know what is in the air but we seem to be able to breathe easier, give and receive with open arms. The red envelopes are the children’s favorite part. It is still mine. Hongbao holds money and is added to our savings. When my siblings and I would open our hongbaos it would be like Christmas morning, the excitement to see how much we got this year.

Hongbao

Hongbao is a traditional gift given to family members during Lunar New Year. Lunar New Year lasts 15 days and it’s a celebration of family and friends. Hongbao is a red envelope that is eye-catching and colorful. The envelope is red and gold, which is reflective in the light. There are red flowers in the left upper corner and bottom right of the envelope. The golden characters in the middle come off the page and has texture, so it looks almost 3D. The hongbao is given out during New Years, birthdays, weddings or other celebrations. The surface of the hongbao is smooth and the flowers and vines have many details. Sometimes I trace the outline of the red flowers and the golden vines when I think about my family.

People putting Sacrificial offering food for pray to god and memorial to ancestor in Chinese New Year day at home on February 7, 2016 in Nonthaburi, Thailand.

Lunar New Year is celebrated differently in every household, but in mine, my mom always makes offerings to Buddha and our ancestors. She lays out all sorts of food such as hard boiled eggs, duck, chicken, fish, oranges, pork, and two candles with fifteen mini cups of wine. The wine symbolizes the 15 days of celebration. On top of every food item, there is a red, circular paper with a chinese character on it that symbolizes the offering. Then one by one, every family member must take two lighted candles and stand outside and pray to the Buddha. I always thank him for my parents, my education and my friends. I alway ask for a bright future full of happiness and full health. Then we burned fake paper money in a handmade fire pit. This fake paper money is called joss paper. The paper money can have red, gold or silver decorations. We must hold them in our palm while using our other hand (in a fist form) to spin the napkins in a spiral. My mom says that doing this gives the money some luck. Then we toss them into the fire pit as we bless our ancestors full health and prosperity in the afterlife. Lunar New Year is about starting the new year with a clean slate.

Joss Paper

One of my memories from Lunar New Year is when my mom almost burned the kitchen down because she decided to do the blessing indoors. It was windy and cold the week before Lunar New Year and my mom always does a blessing and offering the week before, the day of and every day after the New Year. I was doing homework that day upstairs and all of the sudden, the fire alarm in the house started blaring and I smelled smoke. I ran downstairs to the kitchen and I slide open our wooden door and a huge flame shot out of the doorway. I jumped back and my mom screamed for me to close the door and yelled at my brother to get some water. Eventually the flame was put out, but from that day on, we had a burned mark on the kitchen floor, which was made out of wood!

Wooden Camera

Pieces to the bigger picture

In my freshman year, my sculpture professor asked the class to make a box using plywood. We had to construct a container that could hold any object we wanted but there was a catch. There had to be a relationship between the vessel and its contents. We were provided with plywood, wood glue, nails, screws and clamps. I ended up making a wooden camera with a handmade camera roll with my freshman year memories. I wanted to make a camera because I have always loved the idea of capturing memories in a tin box for the future. My wooden camera had the New Paltz school logo on the outside so it could be a merchandise bought at the bookstore and the inside had pictures from my first year here. The relationship was the memories and friendships that college helped to create. I started making the wooden camera in early November of 2016 and was able to finish it within a week.

Finishing touches

I started by cutting out individual plywood to be measured into nine layers and attached by wood glue. Then I measured out the sides and the pieces that will eventually go on top of the camera. I wanted to recreate a camera from the older generations because I have always liked dark room photo development. After assembling the proper pieces and gluing them down, I painted the hawk on the back and the New Paltz logo on the front right hand corner. Sanding down each of the sides and crevasses took a lot of time. I wanted the camera door to have an ability to open and close so viewers could see the handmade camera roll on the inside. With the help of my professor, I was able to drill a hole into the thin wood and insert a toothpick that would help the door swing open and close. Then, I printed out some photos in black and white and colored it to make it look like a camera roll.

Final product 🙂

Originally I had planned to keep it in my room as decoration because I had put so much work into it and I couldn’t just throw it out. However, I ended up giving it to my old photography teacher who inspired me to love black room photo development. I went home during winter break and I gave it to him as a gift. He inspired me to go to New Paltz to pursue education and art, but when I got here, I learned that I couldn’t do both without spending an extra year. I haven’t had a chance to visit my art teacher since freshman year but I hope it continues to inspire others to pursue their dreams too.

The Book of Inspiration

The Book of Helen was created by my camp kids from last summer. I had written them all letters in the beginning of camp so they decided to return the gesture at the end. I participated in an international summer camp called SIG. SIG stood for Summer Institute for the Gifted. These students ranged from 11-15 years old. They all had to apply in order to be accepted and many of them had to be in the 95 percentile. That summer, SIG took place at Princeton University and it was such a gorgeous campus. I had eight students of my own who I spent three weeks with.

Cover page of booklet

This book is comprised of eight entries, each with their individual responses to me. The cover page is hot pink and the pages are alternating yellow and neon green. On the cover page, “The Book of” is in black ink and “Helen” is in blue caps. The subtitle says “Summer of 2018” in black ink. The bottom of the cover page listed all eight authors. The pages, along with the cover is 8.5 inches by 11 inches. The last page is also hot pink and it has my turtle door tag on it. I had made all my students turtle door tags because our hall was “underwater” themed. Each page displayed a different kind of handwriting, each unique to the individual who wrote to me. Some of the pages had drawings at the top, bottom or side to illustrate our times together or individual conversations we had. Some handwriting was neat and big while others were big and had to read. Some pages were decorated with colors of the rainbow and written in gel pen. The writing in gel pen sparkled under the light. One student had cut out the bottom of the card to make a heart and had decorated the borders with lines.

Turtle door tag

I had an amazing time that summer and this book will forever remind me of those moments. They wrote about the stories I would tell about my life because I wanted them to know that even though I was older, I can still relate to them on some degree. We had many talks about school, careers and boys. The student on the first page wrote about how she was going to miss the patterned knock on their door every morning to make sure they were awake. She even drew a sequential picture of how they were late on one of my day offs. It says, “We woke up late, we missed you and we were malnourished”. The second entry was longer and about how she was nervous coming to sleepaway but I was always there whenever she needed me and she appreciated that a lot. She even mentioned the night I was on duty and she wasn’t supposed to be showering, but rather in bed, and I warned her to rush back into her room. At the end of the entry, she wrote “You were like my second mom, thanks for taking care of me!” The third entry will always make me laugh because there was a running joke that I didn’t socialize enough in my life so therefore I was a “grandma”. At the bottom, she wrote “Never grow old Grandma Helen”. She also wrote that she wished she had more space because there was so much still unsaid. The fourth entry was a girl from India. She was so different and energetic. She wrote about how I would always laugh with her when she performed her ice skating routines. These “ice skating routines” were where she swirled around and around twirling her legs until she was super dizzy and would fall. It seemed that she was always on a sugar high and that kept the rest of the group going. She ended up going back to India and I will miss her a lot.

Eight entries all written by my girls 🙂

The fifth entry was written by a girl from Russia who was staying in the local area with family. She was a commuter but nonetheless, part of the family. She wrote about our trip to NYC and how she enjoyed every minute even though it was chaotic. At the bottom, she wished me all the luck in my teaching career because she had no doubts that I will be great. The sixth entry was written by a girl who gave me the hardest time at camp. She didn’t respond well to authority and it took some time, but I slowly won her over. In her letter, she apologized for all the times she was difficult and wished me all the best in the world. I appreciated it and accepted her apology. The last two entries were written by two international students from Asia, one was from mainland China and one was from Vietnam. The girl from Vietnam also wrote about our adventures through the city and the local town of Princeton. The girl from China wrote a short letter, but it still warmed my heart. She had came to me towards the end asking how she could apply for this program next year and be my student again. I gave her all the proper resources since I wasn’t sure of the progress. She compared me to her sisters back home and loved that I reminded her of them.  

I realized that even though we took our separate ways and there were a lot of tears on the last day, this isn’t the end. This book will forever be a token of my experience, something I hope to do again in the future. Mementos such as this one, will continue to inspire me to pursue teaching. I hope to come back in another summer and maybe I will see my girls again. I told them that maybe one day they will see me on the streets and recognize me. I told them that they had their whole lives ahead of them and maybe one day we will bump into each other on a corner or street. The international students can travel to America and I can travel abroad. Destiny works in mysterious ways and you never know, we may cross paths again.

My Memory Box

Peep of the inside of memory box

I have decided to tidy my memory box. Every time I make a memory, a small part of that day goes into the box. I started by categorizing the items in the box into cards, ticket stubs/plays, photos and miscellaneous. As I was sorting it, instantly in my mind, I saw things I wanted to get rid of, things that I had left at the bottom on the box, forgotten. I realized I had 28 cards, 16 ticket stubs, 2 signed plays, 84 pictures and 18 miscellaneous.

The cards were either birthday cards from my staff or my sorority that I didn’t want to part with. The ticket stubs ranged from movie dates with my boyfriend as we started dating to movies I went with friends. I understand that I could throw these out because I don’t need them. They bought me joy when I went all those years ago but now it’s just paper that reminded me of those great times. Looking at the two play books, the Dear Evan Hansen was signed by the original cast and Hamilton was an amazing experience, both adventures that my brother took me on. I decided to follow KonMari’s idea of ripping the page that was most important, so that’s what I did. I ripped out the front cover and tossed the rest. The photos were mostly of my best friend and I from years ago, which I realized that I don’t need anymore. Those memories will forever be with me and I don’t need physical photos to prove that. There’s also pictures of my boyfriend and I in the beginning of our relationship along with photos of my sorority when I first joined. A lot of memories in that box, but also many forgotten memories. There was also a few photos from high school and I still love those people so I might keep a few of those. The miscellaneous can probably all go, a lot of it was things I have collected from camp as a counselor, things that remind me of my future and why I chose the path I did. I also realized a lot of the miscellaneous things were origami that my camp kids made for me as a goodbye gift and I treasured those in that moment, but now I realized it’s just clutter.

Items were categorized from left to right: cards, miscellaneous, ticket stubs, play books, and photos.

Starting with the miscellaneous pile, I threw out everything but the origami rose and white flower corsage that were given to me by the two most important people in my life right now, my boyfriend and my sorority girls. Holding both in my hand, definitely brought me joy. Next, I moved onto the ticket stubs, which was hard. Each ticket stub had its own story, whether it was with friends or significant others. I realized that I had only gone to amazing movies like Deadpool, Crazy Rich Asians, Coco, Ocean 8 etc. In the end, I realized I don’t need these tiny stubs to remind me of the great films I have seen. I decided I will keep only three tickets: one from the American Museum of Natural History, one from a Lindsey Stirling concert and the last one was from the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. All three experiences were amazing and I would like to keep mementos of them. Maybe one day they will be discarded, but for now, they mean a lot to me.

Photo taken after the discarding of all piles.

Next, I went through the photos and put all the old ones in one photo packet and some of the recent ones in the other packet and left the most important ones on the surface. I realized that there were so many changes in my lifeas I got older. I lost and gain friends and those that I lost, their photos have been stored away. Eventually, those photos will be thrown out but at this moment, I’m just going to put them out of sight. Last but not least, I saved the cards for last because I knew they were going to be the most difficult ones for me to look through. These handmade cards have stories of their own given to me by the people in my life. I would hate to see any of it go but I understand that I need to clear some of it out. As I went through it, I decided to throw out anything that was written to me by my camp kids, such as scribbles of their names and thank you notes. I decided to keep only those that I could read and had an impact on me when I thought about it. There was one card written by one of my favorite kids and the minute I opened it, a smile appeared on my face and in my mind, I saw her face. It’s amazing what a memento like this one could do to someone’s emotions. The question now is, is it worth keeping? I also came across a birthday card I was suppose to give a friend of mine but then we grew apart. Holding that card in my hand gave me a feeling of sadness but sometimes things like that, are meant to happen in your life because better things are coming your way.

End product of discarding

Overall, I feel like I have cleared out a lot, but I also notice that there are a few things I still hold onto and that’s okay. Going through my old stuff was a great way of going down memory lane, but it also helped me understand what I need or don’t need. In the end, I had 15 cards, 3 ticket stubs, 2 play covers, 2 miscellaneous and 6 photos. My memory box is so much lighter. Even though I threw out a lot, there were still objects that hold meaning for me. Objects will always hold meaning to its owner because together they went through an experience that they don’t want to forget.