Packing Up the Memories & Key of Trust (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby

Since 2014 marks my ten year high school reunion, I must share my “Packing Up the Memories” story with you. Instead of rewriting something that’s already written, I am using my essay from college that I wrote in September 2004. 


I will never forget how I held the “key of trust” from January to June of my senior year. I was not ready to close up my 6th and final year of aiding, so I was offered a position 4th block by my ex-English, media and comp IV teacher, who I now call “Momma.” When I became her aide I was forewarned of what I had to do. I had been given the not-so-easy task of cleaning the media editing room/English hall storage room, which had later been named my office. Knowing that Momma and I were the only ones going to be going into my office, one day I asked her for the key, because I needed somewhere to store my belongings and I didn’t have a locker. 

I had been familiar with working in that room before it even became mine. I was one of the two media editors that used the computer in there first semester. Before I cleaned it, the room looked like Florida after hurricane Frances hit it. 

As soon as you opened the door, the first things you would notice was how it smelt like dust and mildew, and how the sunlight would always light up the room during the day. On the left hand side, there was a regular sized table with a computer and VCR on top and above that was the bulletin board. Beside the table there was an old wooden teacher’s desk, bigger than the ones that are in classrooms nowadays. On top of the teacher’s desk, there were at least a hundred cds that had been sent to our media class for the school announcements and a bunch of teacher editions of English textbooks. In the back of the room, on the left hand side close to the windows, there was a shelf that attached to the wall and was full of old papers and empty binders. 

On the right side of my office was several shelves that went from one end of the wall to the other. There were at least eight sections that divided into 4 or 5 shelves per section. Boxes were lined up on the floor in front of the shelves.  Video tapes and cassettes had been thrown together in several piles on the shelf.  Class sets of The Great GatsbyRaisin in the Sun and a few literature books were randomly placed on the center shelving. Other books from drama, speech, and pleasure reading were roughly stacked on shelves all different ways. In the very back, looking straight ahead, there were two windows of which both were broken and could not be opened without some extra work getting them closed. Two huge rolling carts were placed in front of the windows and both of those had boxes of papers piled on them along with inches of dust. 

While in the process of cleaning in the six months, I decorated the almost bare bulletin board the way I had wanted. I had found a few posters in the room so I hung up a huge poster of a blue sunset with a message and two cat posters. I had also pinned pictures, remote control sound key chain, a Philadelphia postcard and a locker poster. 

By the end of May, I had cleaned and dusted almost everything in the room and bags worth of trash had been thrown away every day. I had accomplished the major task of dusting and organizing all of the objects on the huge oak shelves. I had also organized all 200 or more VHS tapes on the oak shelves, all boxes were gone, textbooks were neatly lined up on the dusted shelves, the computer was gone, desks were empty and had very few items left on the top. It looked very clean and everyone was impressed with the work I had done. 

Room 220 was mine for the time being and it was my home away from home. All throughout the six months of holding the key, I was there from 1 p.m. to after school hours almost every day. I was the only one, other than Momma, who had ever seen and read through all of the papers that were not supposed to be seen by anyone other than her. I had kept secrets, literally, behind closed doors. This was the place I went to be alone, if I needed to think about a lot of things. People knew of room 220 being mine and I always had people dropping by saying hi. This was some experience that no other student had ever or will ever have. 

June 4th was my graduation and I still held the key to my office. Holding the key for six days over graduation set a good feeling within my soul—it was a proven fact that I was trusted. I was no longer the student but a mere adult holding the key. On June 10th, Momma and I came back to the high school to finish up cleaning in her room, the neighboring room and my office. I had the choice to either keep the key and never use it again or give the key up. I held back tears and gave the key to Momma. 

If I had of kept the key, knowing I’d never be able to use to again, I would always wonder what was on the other side; I would still be clinging onto the past. But, because I gave it up, the memories and secrets will always remain locked up behind closed doors and forever in my memory. I wanted to leave high school knowing that I should not have regrets, and if I did, I would not be able to travel to the past to change them. In the end, I did the right thing by proudly handing back the key (of 6 months worth of trust), ending six wonderful years of aiding, and closing the first chapter of my life. 

2014 added note: 

When the first day of school in August 2004 rolled around, Momma and I sat out in front of the school greeting everyone as they arrived, while holding signs with “retired” and “graduated” on it. Both the students and staff at WJHS got a kick out of it. Momma returned to school to sub and I continued helping out in the office there on days I didn’t attend college. 

In 2005, I had yet another season of “Packing Up the Memories.” I helped Coletta, the choir director at the middle school and original teacher I first started teacher aiding for, clean out her room because she was leaving for another position somewhere else. 

Yet another chapter closed, and the permanent end to my teacher aiding days. 

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