The List: 10 highlights from Andy’s ‘memory box’

Behold the Birdmobile

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
The Birdmobile

Growing up, my parents kept a ‘memory box’ for each of their three kids, which, as you might be able to guess, consisted of a cardboard box filled with all manner of childhood ephemera: awards, drawings, report cards and so on.

Now that all three of us have kids of our own, our parents decided this month to pass along our individual boxes, which in my case, at least, long ago graduated to an outsized plastic tub that now tops out somewhere north of 80 pounds. 

Here are just 10 highlights pulled from the history bin during a partial excavation this afternoon:

The Birdmobile

Easily my favorite derby car, this Celtics-themed wooden racer was constructed in honor of Larry Bird and perfectly mirrored his existence in that it wasn’t quite as sleek or fast as the other entries but still managed to pile up awards (for best design rather than a trio of MVPs and NBA championships).

The brackets from the 1992 CYO Boys Soccer tournament

Our eighth grade team from St. Sebastian won the title over St. Hillary 1-0, which still stands as the greatest athletic achievement of my life, save maybe for the year I ran the Akron half marathon. The best part might be that I’m still good friends with one of the guys who played for St. Hilary, and this loss still bothers him as much now as it did back then.

A plaster cast of my teeth from before I got braces in high school

This was a horrifying thing to stumble upon, tbh.

A “Top Banana” award presented to me by my second grade teacher

I know Scott Woods recently wrote that reading wasn’t a contest, but I would have heard none of that talk when Ms. Francis gave me this certificate for completing 30 books as a second grader.

Materials from Buckeye Boys State

I can’t even begin to explain how weird this whole scene was (I attended because no one else from our school wanted to and I thought it would look good on my college application). The biggest thing I can recall is that a guy in my dorm hall won the election for “governor,” which led to me being named the head of the EPA, which led to me getting in trouble for using my power to shut down the water fountains in one of the residence halls, citing high lead content in the water. Plus, they made us sing Lee Greenwood every day.

A certificate noting my promotion to “tenth kyu gold belt”

I took karate lessons for maybe a year, barely making it beyond the novice ranking of white belt. Most noteworthy from that time was probably the class where I accidentally gave a friend a bloody nose, which is still the closest I’ve come to actually being in a fistfight.

My Scorchers time card from Jan. 11, 1997

I don’t know why my parents saved this, but it’s noteworthy only because it shows me working a 16.52 hour kitchen shift at age 17, which wasn’t all that unusual in my time there. See, the summer before senior year of high school, I was saving money for a car like a madman, logging as many as 77 hours in a single week, which I remember clearly because I was paid for 37 hours of overtime. The best part is the car I purchased, a 1986 Dodge Lancer, broke down five blocks from my house the first day I drove it to school that year. In fact, I bet I was working this particular 16+ hour January shift in the hopes of paying off some repair or another. Man, that car sucked.

Materials from World Youth Day

In 1993, I traveled 40 hours by bus with a school group to see the pope, even though I wasn’t overly religious, and am even less so now. (To be fair, I was partly duped by a classmate who said we could go skiing while in Denver, which was a massive lie.) Among the materials my folks saved are a neon pink hat that we had to wear wherever we went so people in our group were easily spotted, and an Akron Beacon Journal article written after our return, where my only quote to the reporter was about how the pope appeared shorter in person than I thought he would be.

A short story I wrote in 1989

Titled “A Night in the Toy Store,” the whole thing is barely half a page, and opens with me getting locked in a toy store after being distracted by a Teddy Ruxpin doll. This, of course, leads to me getting attacked by a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figure. And, well, take it away 1989 Andy: “Raphael threw a katana blade at me, and as I dodged it I heard a scream. When I turned around, I saw Teddy Ruxpin with a katana in his throat and battery fluid was gushing everywhere.”

A sixth place trophy from the creative writing competition Power of the Pen in 1993

See previous entry.