My son was recently going through his “old” room, (having upgraded twice as each older sibling moved out) and found a whole bunch of his “treasures”. Included in this category: a bag of broken crap collected from the street while walking home from elementary school, a chunk of concrete, stuffed animals, bouncy balls (around 100 of them), 8 bajillion video games (also called, why I don’t have a retirement fund). Little photo albums I would make him of his family, our vacations, his birthday. He was so excited to pull these old items out, bring them to me, “mom do you remember this, and this and this?!” And I did. I remembered when he found his “rock baby”. This 5 pound rock that he carried with all his little boy might, up a giant hill. Held it lovingly in his lap the whole car ride home, and placed in his room where rock baby sat sentinel for years.
I moved into this house in October of 2004. I had moved out of our family home and into a 700 sf apartment with three kids, 2 cats and a 90 pound Labrador two years prior, when my spouse and I decided to seperate. I had scaled down my belongings quite a bit. I never thought we’d fill this house, but we did.
Fast forward 14 years and two of my children own their own homes, and the baby is looking at colleges. It’s time for me to start thinking about what my life looks like when that day comes, I have some plans. The first part of that plan is downsizing. This is a house for a family, it’s too much space for me and my dog.
Every day as I walk through this house and clean, I pull things aside to donate or sell. There are the easy things: clothes, kitchen items I no longer need, cookbooks. Knickknacks that had no real sentimental value.
Then there are the things that are a bit harder to deal with, that I’ve been dragging around for a long time. Some of these go back to my childhood. A tin of sharks teeth collected along the shores of Florida with my father. The birds nest jewelry holder my mother got me for my 10th birthday. My baby blankets, baby clothes, stuffed animals. My first wine cooler bottle. A chunk of tile from the McDonalds bathroom circa 1987, when I ripped the toilet paper dispenser out of the wall trying to steal extra rolls to TP with. My folders from high school, covered in song lyrics; tear splattered from a broken heart. Every letter my first boyfriend wrote me, and all the ones I wrote to him, that I got back after he died. His Packers shirt he wore to football practice that is so thin I can see through it. The dress I wore on my very first date with my ex-husband. My wedding rings. Love letters from men who love other people now. And a few of their t-shirts.
There are the obvious gut wrenches, that will probably be boxed up and saved and dealt with upon my demise: My children’s baby clothes. Their little itty bitty jammies. Their first big kid undies. Their teeth and first curls. Every mothers day card I’ve been given over 20 some years. All of their art projects.
Before I have to face the hard decisions of what to keep and what to let go of, there are the little things that get me choked up. The “extras drawer” under the linen closet. The place where I kept extra bottles of shampoo and soap. For years there was an extra bottle of L’Oreal Tearless in there waiting to be called into play. Where you could find the next tube of toothpaste and extra toothbrushes so when 1 or 2 or 3 extra kids spent the night everyone could brush their teeth. Where I kept calamine lotion for itchy skin and Neosporin for cuts and 3 different kinds of band-aids so no matter your mood, your ouchy could be helped by Spiderman or My Little Pony or Toy Story. It’s no longer full. A few old bandaids sit at the back.
It’s the corner of the basement where 3 pails for sandcastles now hold dust and spiders. Boogie boards full of sand from North Carolina beaches are starting to bow from standing so long unused. A BMX bike fit for an 8 year old. 22 rubbermaid tubs full of stuffed animals and books and hot-wheels and legos. Bedroom furniture that got outgrown but not out loved. These are the things that bring a lump to my throat. These are the things that are hard to look at, to think about letting go. These are the set pieces of my babies lives. Years that blurred by.
And I know, that it’s not the things that make me sad. It’s the nights I had to work late. The days I came home exhausted and grouchy. The sheer emotional and physical toll that raising three kids by yourself takes on a person. The trying to carve out a personal life and always feeling guilty for doing so. Constantly feeling like you were failing every time the lights got shut off, or we ran out of milk or I just didn’t have the energy to be a “good” mom.
But, the books also remind me of laying in bed with the kids and reading them stories until we fell asleep. The hot wheels cars remind me of the tracks we’d put up around our apartment and the laughter and glee on the boys faces. The tub after tub of stuffed animals and books remind me I could never tell Tay no when she would look up at me with those giant blue eyes and say “but mom, he HAS to come home with me” holding up some new stuffed animal. Or “please mom, one more Little Critter book?”
The pails remind me of the years we made it to the ocean, that we had vacations. That I was able to take them to the places I loved growing up and make drip castles and get too much sun and collect shells and boogie board in the surf. We did that. I did that.
I would kill to have a day with my babies cuddled in my bed like a pile of puppies and read them stories. Their little feet kicking me in the ribs, fighting over blankets and who gets to lay by mommy. It’s the lament all parents come to, once they are on the other side of things.
I look forward to what life has in store moving forward. I’m excited by the possibilities. I have plans. They excite me. Seeing my children grown and the people they are is wonderful and lovely in a whole new way. It simply went a bit faster than I thought.