Sunny Days in DC

Jack of All Trades, Master of 3-ish.

Little Treasures

on March 11, 2013

This weekend, as with the previous one, we drove up to NYC. We packed baby, mommy, and daddy into the car, tossed in whatever crap we thought we could possibly need for the next three days, and headed off into the sunset.

And as with last weekend, my mom bid us a tearful farewell, her parting words: “Take. Your. Shit.”

See, my mom is the worst kind of hoarder; the kind who buys shit FOR OTHER PEOPLE. Did you want that hand-knit sweater that reads “Liam”? Because it’s YOURS, even if you named your son “Max.” Long white dress with ruffles at the bottom? Well, guess your son will be one kick-ass drag queen in day care, n’est pas?

My guy and I shake our heads, but we take each item and thank her, because her feelings are easily hurt…. and because no matter how many times we tell her to PLEASE don’t buy us silly crap we don’t need, we’re always greeted at the door with more bags.

Bags and bags and bags and bags….

Hoarder.

But this weekend, hidden deep inside one paper bag with a handle that threatened to rip and toss contents all over the street, deep in this bag was a small box. It’s not one of those cigar boxes that used to be so popular. Honestly, I’m not sure where I got it from, but that’s kind of ok, too.

After seven hours of driving, I had forgotten all about it until we got home and that stupid bag finally ripped. Out fell the little wooden box, with one hinge holding on for dear life. We put Max to bed, I checked on my work email, and I sat down to look through the contents of a childhood treasure chest.

Worthless little knicknacks, Garbage Pail kids cards, foreign stamps, and a few folded letters tumbled out. I would be completely justified in throwing it all away. Who really wants this picture of me when I’m 9 years old? It’s blurry, and I look ridiculous in my poncho (seriously, mom? I know it was the late 1980’s, but you could have put SOME effort into styling me!). And this letter I kept from a friend’s mom who wrote to me when I was in summer camp? She died almost 10 years ago, and her son has since grown up and moved away. Why bother with it all? I hate little cluttery things, and I don’t need these…

…but, I have a horrible memory. I do. Sometimes, it’s so bad that I get a little scared. People seem to recall things that I’ve long forgotten. And even though this box doesn’t bring back any specific memories, it reminds me of being younger. When things were, at once, more simple and infinitely more complex. I had no agency, no control over my future. I had no real understanding of why my parents divorced, and I didn’t know how to manage my mom and her rage that followed. There’s a meticulously written letter from my father to me when I first went to camp at age 9. He talks about going to camp when he was a small boy. The trees and birds… and looking back, knowing what I know of his childhood and how hard it was, I think that it must have been bittersweet to write about a time in his life he would never relive. Just as it is for me to read it now, sitting in my living room, as my son falls asleep upstairs.

This was a time long before I was bullied in junior high, before high school where I met the kid whom I would still wonder about (he’s not on FB, or we all know I would totally stalk the SHIT out of him!), before college, where I would learn so much about who I am, and before 9/11 and the resonating echoes on my life. It’s good, and it’s hard, and I wish I could go back, and I’m so glad I’m not there. I miss my dog, and I don’t miss my hair (big, poofy, terrifying!).

I’ll keep the box of little treasures. I won’t toss it. I’ll let it collect dust, and I’ll open it again from time to time. It’s sitting next to me right now; my little time capsule, my window into my past. Maybe one day my son will open it. He’ll look through the unanswered letters from penpals that they made us write in school. He’ll wonder why I have old stamps, or who these kids are in these old pictures. Maybe he’ll toss them. He probably will. They’re just little knicknacks after all, and they really mean nothing. Or maybe he’ll have a box of his own. A little treasure chest to store all those precious childhood dreams and touchstones. I don’t know. This silly little thing. Not worth $5 to anyone.

So why am I sitting here, crying?

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11 responses to “Little Treasures

  1. I started to keep memory boxes, as I like to call them. Things I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of when cleaning. They live in their Rubbermaid containers in a scary closet that I don’t like to go in. Every few years I look inside those boxes, smile a little, but mostly cry a little. Pictures of Francisco streets that tug at my heart strings, funeral programs from friends who died too young and violently. I was 21 when September 11th happened and its weird how that day seems to be the landmark between my hopeful childhood and my now scarier adulthood.

  2. See?! That last line? I knew you faced the dragon!

  3. Do NOT throw that little box away! The precious memories that it holds are priceless! http://wp.me/p1se8R-3C5 Keep it and add to it! Your son will one day want to hold those memories in his hands as he, too, sheds tears of love.

    • H. Stern says:

      Yeah, I’ll keep it. I couldn’t throw it out. Whatever. One more thing to drag around with me for the rest of my life. I’m oddly cool with it.

  4. FreeRangeCow says:

    Somehow I missed this post. Soooo glad I found it, today. You REALLY have your shit together, mamma; fuck the day-to-day lists…you understand priorities and the grand scheme of life. #IBowToYourInnerDiva

  5. momany says:

    Aww honey those are precious memories! I too have things I just can’t seem to part with. I have a diary from when I was in 5th grade. I take it once every few years and laugh at the simplicity of the problems. I have photos and yearbooks tucked away and when the kids find them they laugh at the prom pictures and thank me I didn’t marry that guy! LOL
    I have newspaper clippings, medals from races, stones I picked up on the beach the first time I saw it and even an old plastic corsage my Grandmother fancied so I kept it!
    Those are the glimpses we give our kids into our young hearts…they are priceless and your sweet son will think so too!
    One day when I’m gone they’ll have tons of rubbermaids to look through and shake their heads. Each one filled with baby clothes from each of them, their favorite blankets , a beat up doll or action figure and they will feel my love.
    Sending you all my love and hugs! Hoping today…you have a wonderful day!

    I’m glad your Mom saved that box for you! Look at the memories she reminded you of!
    And I am not lurking! LOL
    MOM

  6. ekgo says:

    Wah! Chris, Noelle, and I freaking LOVED Garbage Pail Kids!!!
    And we all have little treasure boxes full of childhood moments, too. Mine is an old Band-Aids tin. You know the little plastic army men? My Bandaid tin has a plastic cheerleader because my Great Grandmother gave her to me when she thought I needed some kind of girl toy. And there’s a marble that I stole from some kid at school only it wasn’t stealing, really, because he had a ton of them and told me to keep it. There are comic strips I cut out from the sunday paper that must have been really funny to me at the time. There are corners of lined paper with my doodles. There
    is a brilliantly fake ring, a yellow barette…I love to look at those things. Love them.
    I’m glad you found yours and realize its worth.

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