Monday, March 11, 2013

I Wonder About My Old Childhood Treasure?

I was discussing on facebook recently some strategies for how to deal with preschooler art.  For those of you who have not had the experience of living with a preschooler, allow me to explain - from Minute One of that first day of school, you Preshuss Darling will begin bringing home a metric ton of construction-paper-and-paste confections, the bulk of which (at least in the early years) are actually mostly created by their classroom teacher.  Eventually, the hallmarks of a toddler's touch will become apparent - a half-assed scribble here and there, the inevitable handprint turkey or butterfly (every darn thing has their little handprints on it) - and the art will become less the teacher's and more the handiwork of your unique little Snowflake.  And you will have to face the dilemma of determining what the the ever loving heck to do with all of it?  This PRIIIIIINT of your baby's HAAAAAANDS when he was just TWOOOO and one day he'll be a MAAAAN and his hands will be bigger than MIIIIINE and WAAAAAAAAAH.  What do you put aside to save forever and ever, for those days when your baby's a man/woman and you miss the little kid he used to be (knowing that it will just be clutter that your grown children will one day have to clean out of your house, after you've shuffled off this mortal coil)?  And what can you praise lovingly and loudly, and then slip secretly into the recycle bin at the first opportunity?

This discussion (I'm of the TOSS IT ALL school of thought) got me thinking about a rubbermaid container I have upstairs.  This container is full of preschool art, of pictures and handprints and I LUV YOO MOM scrawled in a child's hand across a notebook page.  The preschooler who created this art was me, and the rubbermaid was a "gift" from my mother who finally decided, about four years ago, that she was done trucking five of these darn things around every time she moved to a new house (which was often).  So she gathered her five children to her, and whispered, lovingly, sweetly, to each of us in turn: "Get your crap out of here now or it's going in the trash."

So now I have a bucket full of crap up there, and even in this latest move when I majorly purged our stuff in order to make it fit in a tiny little POD for the trek 2 hours down the highway, I was unable to touch that container.  I know I need to go through it.  I know I can probably toss most of it.  But it's kind of hard to look at something that has been lovingly cherished for 30 years, and just put it out with last week's papers, you know?  

Emotional baggage aside, it is kind of entertaining to look through the container, as in addition to my old art it also holds many things I used to treasure.  I have a Science Olympics medal which I won in the 6th grade.  I have the Math Counts trophy I won in 7th grade.  (NERD ALERT, am I right?)  I have the petals from a flower that my first boyfriend gave me, over twenty years ago.  (More like, I have an envelope full of dust that used to be petals.)  I also have in there the mix tape he gave me back in those days, which says on it "Name" (he wrote his name) and "Date" (he wrote Yes Please!)  I have my Girl Scout pin and my sash full of badges, with three or four that still need sewn on.  There are honors and awards and certificates, carefully pasted into a scrapbook by me - there is a sticker book that I treasured when I was five, and when I look at it I can still remember carefully organizing my stickers into categories in order to select which pages to put them on ("Prty" and "Animl" are two I recall).  That rubbermaid holds a lot of childhood memories, tied up in a bunch of stuff, and I don't quite have it in me to purge it yet.

I think if I had to pick, of all my dearest treasures, the one I most loved is not in there.  It is gone, forever, victim of my love for it.  Like the Velveteen rabbit, it got all loved up and kind of ruined, and eventually thrown away.  This treasure of which I speak is my Cabbage Patch doll - whose birth certificate I still have, though she is long gone.  I watch my own kid carry his disgusting, deflated, hole-covered, filthy Yellow Bear everywhere he goes, and I wonder if one day he'll remember it the way I remember that doll.  Boy did I love that doll.  

I toss my boys' art day in and day out, exclaiming over it and then putting it out with the recycling before it gets so heavy with emotional baggage that I cannot bring myself to part with it.  I jettison as quickly as I collect, lest I end up some crazy old sentimental lady with a house full of talismans, little pieces of her offsprings' childhoods that she could not bear to lose once she lost the children inside the adults they would become.  It's kind of my way of forcing me to embrace the present, to love whatever phase of life I'm in and not weep over the lovely ones I've left behind.  

God love it, though, that disgusting Yellow Bear will be with me until the day I die.

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