Lately I find myself drowning in a sea of stuff.
Clothing, papers, photographs, and memorabilia, but stuff nonetheless.
All the bits and pieces of my children’s castoff babyhoods piling up around me in bags, boxes, bins, and books.
Only six years into this parenting gig, what will the place look like in 20? I can see the headlines now; I’ll be one of those people you hear about when the fire department has to kick a path through the stash of junk in their homes.
All I’ll lack is 99 cats.
Pack rat. I suffer from an affliction that makes it difficult for me to part with things. I am a pack rat.
It’s not that I hold any delusions that I will use any particular thing again, but rather that each inanimate object holds memories for me.
The tiny sleepers and impossibly minuscule booties whisper to me of warm baby bundles snuggled in my arms.
The drawings and clay objects d’art were crafted with love “for you mommy.”
Boxes of scattered photographs chronicle moments in time never seen before and which shall never be seen again. Particularly those moments apparently fuzzy and out of focus with a thumbprint across the lens. But still, it’s a memory!
Letting go. I’ve never been good at letting go. I stash and store and tell myself that someday my children will be happy to have these things.
Won’t my son be thrilled I saved every Toy Story figure great and small to honor his love affair with that movie at age 2? Won’t my daughter thrill at seeing every holiday dress (with matching tights and hair bows, mind you) carefully saved for her?
What if some tragedy befell the mountain of visible art displayed in our home – a refrigerator thief, say, carting off the priceless preschool painting along with our used Kenmore? Won’t I be grateful I stashed just as much of the kids’ handiwork away for safekeeping? It pays to be prepared.
I like to believe I am preserving the past. Perhaps I’m mistaken and I am going to end up holding one heck of a garage sale someday.
Will I see the “ashtray” fashioned of modeling clay by an industrious preschooler for parents who don’t smoke sell for a dime to someone who needs a dog dish?
Will the well-worn baby clothes steeped in sentiment be tossed into the ragbag?
Will Electronic Talking Buzz Lightyear (who has sounded a little slow ever since his brush with a tubful of bubbles) at least find a home with some like-minded kid with a nostalgic bent?
Will some future historian puzzle diligently over the significance of a series of out-of-focus photographs of a toothless, diaper-clad baby sitting on a paint can?
Memories. In short, what exactly will happen to all these memories when I am no longer here to remember them? Is the memory stored in the item itself or is it in our hearts forever? Even if the ratty old teddy bear or Easter dress never see the light of day again?
I suspect the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
The memories and associations are in our hearts, but the items themselves are the keys that unlock them. Be it grandmother’s antique cradle or a lone baby bootie saved in a drawer bottom. It means something to someone, or it did at one time.
That explains why a priceless heirloom of babyhood to me may appear on the surface to be only a worn-out baby sleeper with a stain on the knee to you.
The carefully folded, spit-up stained clothes, the overly loved toys, and the snapshots of extraordinarily ordinary moments: memories are made of this.
Let others clean closets and live simply. I am unabashed in my zeal to stash, and save, it all. I hope only that my offspring bear with me and handle with kindness the legacy (and sheer volume) of stuff I shall bestow upon them.
Perhaps, if I am truly fortunate, I’ll live to see them pass it all on to their own kids.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt is diligently creating memories for her children – whether they want them or not. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)
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