One of my bigger life laments is my rejection of a generous invitation from Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey.
Oh, it wasn’t a thumb-to-the nose, in-your-face style rejection, but indirect faux pas. Inexcusable though it was, in reality it was painful only to me.
As the story goes, in my junior year of high school, I submitted a short story as part of an overall application package for Pennsylvania’s now-defunct Governor’s school for the Arts. As I recall, the application process was lengthy, multi-tiered, and competitive.
The Governor’s School was a six-week, intensive, residential program hosted by a state university. While I was scribbling out my story for the creative writing concentration, my best friend, Tisa, was filming a monologue as her submission to the corresponding drama track.
In due time, the letter came from the governor, and, for reasons that are not clear, I opted not to attend the program.
How shallow! How short sighted! What did I do that summer, anyway? Go to the mall? Flip burgers? Where could I be today had I taken the high road straight to the Governor’s school? Often, I have given myself a mental flogging for my bad choice, going so far as to use the situation for fodder in another short story I penned, which did happen to take first place in a writing contest for a cash prize, offering a modicum of solace.
Indeed, it has been awhile since I have taken time to consider the Shunning of the Governor.
Recent events, however, have brought the episode back into the spotlight.
Some time ago, my mother saw my name in the paper, and not for any of the Usual Reasons. Seems the Pennsylvania Treasury periodically runs a list of their own, personal Most Wanted: individuals who have rightful claim to funds that they inexplicably abandoned.
Now, I enjoy funds as much as the next guy, and I am certainly not one to leave unclaimed sums lying about in treasuries of states in which I used to reside. However, the Treasury remains clear that they are in possession of an amount “exceeding $100” (their Top Bracket!) of MY money, allegedly from an unfamiliar life insurance company. All I had to do was fill out some forms and gather some Key Documents including a copy of my Social Security card, my marriage license, and proof of residence at the address I lived at the time of the Abandonment.
Now, in spite of the admittedly high Mystery Factor, I did not immediately jump on the task of claiming the funds. In truth, I have likely lost a lot more than a hundred–plus bucks in my life over failure to do paperwork, and this particular batch was fraught with complications, including the procurement of a replacement social security card, as I had not been in possession of one since the early 90s
Other life events eventually dictated the need to file for a new card, but still I did not begin the application to claim the funds. Mostly, it wasn’t on my radar, but, also, I think I secretly liked the mystery of it all. Or maybe I just wasn’t sure how I would actually prove I lived at the address of record: an unfortunate arrangement with a mousy spinster and her neurotic dog.
During the time she was my roommate, I paid my share of expenses in cash. Then, she abruptly announced she was moving out, which filled me with delight as I planned to bring on my aforementioned bff Tisa, until the day the entire contents of the house disappeared. Who knew every stick of furniture went with the roommate?
Tisa and I looked about in a temporary state of shock, decided we couldn’t make a go of things, and a closed shop. The entire episode lasted just a few weeks.
Spurred, perhaps, by the impending governmental furlough, my husband recently took it upon himself to print the treasury claim forms and begin the paperwork himself, tasking me with an attic foray ISO documentation verifying my stay at the spinster’s pad at Perry Place.
So there I was, sifting through artifacts including my lone arrest warrant, some sketchy report cards, and a host of personal letters (none addressed to Perry Place, which seemed statistically improbable as I found correspondence addressed to me seemingly at every address at which I had ever rested my head, including summer camp, various universities, and even letters my father mailed to me when I spent a few nights at my aunt’s house in a neighboring town).
I dug deeper and deeper into the 40 gallon bins, hoping for some scrap of official documentation when I saw it there among the hand written notes passed during math class: the envelope from The Governor.
“Documentation, all right,” I thought, grimly, setting the envelope aside, in prime position to plague me.
A few moments later, I decided to look full on at the specs of all I had foregone. The workshops! The facilities! The accolades!
I took a deep breath and opened the surprisingly slim envelope. I glanced at the Governor’s stationery and return address, and then focused on the type.
It took a moment or two to absorb the sentiment expressed therein. I kept stumbling over the word “regret.” As in, “we regret to inform you…” The weight of it all washed over me. The Governor? He rejected me.
I didn’t know whether to be relieved that I no longer needed to beat myself up for not attending, to lament all the time I had, to be happy that I had somehow managed to weave the episode into an award-winning short story, or to be disappointed that I didn’t get it right the first time. Mostly? I didn’t know how I could go back and tell everyone that my oft-repeated story about turning down the governor was a twisted tale.
Numbly, I dug beneath the “Why Weren’t You in School Today” greeting cards from friends and found a letter from an elementary school pen pal, addressed to me, at Perry Place, with a cancelled stamp! Bingo!
I went downstairs and explained that the childhood pen pal letter was the only evidence I had of my brief stay at Perry Place. We all agreed that it would have to do, and sent the forms along.
Several hours after The Find, I confessed to my family the shocking truth of my Governor’s School rejection. Everyone laughed, and cited scenes from sitcoms which explored the same sad storyline.
And me? I found the entire thing unsettling in light of my recent application to a respected MFA program, and I don’t want to forget the particulars of this one. After all, research continues to confirm that that false memories aren’t just contrived fodder for prime time chuckles. It’s a very real phenomenon, and considering my past, it’s best not to leave my current opportunity to the flimsy whims of my brain waves. This time, I’m posting the evidence, and not just on my fridge: