A new year is upon us and pretty soon we’ll be hearing the words “spring cleaning.” Out with the old and in with the new! So why do I have so much trouble with the first part of that phrase? Out with the old. My children now range in age from 7 to 14. Toddler toys and clothes have no use in this house anymore. There’s always ‘in with the new‘ coming into the house, but letting go of their old stuff has proven difficult for this sentimental mother.
The shoes … it should be easy to throw out old shoes that don’t fit them anymore. But I look at the little red Keds, the froggy rain boots that my 2 year old wore every single day, rain or shine, the tiny, red polka dotted squeaky shoes that I would pull the plug out of on school days so the squeaking noise wouldn’t drive the teachers crazy. It’s impractical to keep them all. I don’t have the storage space to be able to do that. The day I went through them, I lined them up and took a picture, thinking that if I had to part with them, at least I’d always have this picture that one day I would blow up and hang in the laundry room or above cubby space in a mud room. I then painfully stuck them all in a give away box, minus the rubber boots (I just couldn’t part with them), and sealed it with tape.
It’s, of course, not just the shoes. What about the itty bitty clothes? Those newborn gowns that all 4 slept in those first few months of their lives, making night time diaper changes easier. Just me and them in the middle of the night. Pulling that elastic bottom up over their tiny, warm, legs, scrunched up in the fetal position. The school house dress, the Sesame Street shirt, and the little boy Jon Jons. I look at these items, and I remember the moments …
I always select a few special items to keep that I just can’t part with, but I look at the tubs, and I mean TUBS, full of little boy clothes, labeled 2T, 3T, 4T and I think how can I just give it all away? I love these clothes! I can hold any item up and say, “Awe, remember when …,” then I put the top back on and I know deep down that they have to be given to someone else. When I gave most of my girls’ clothes away, I’d always say, “But I want them back!” They would go from one sister to a friend to a sister in law, then they would slowly disappear from being passed around. I know that is best.
Then there are the toys. The little brown rocking horse. They’ve all out grown it. It wasn’t an expensive item and I know it should have been given away, but I can just picture those little boys rocking and laughing. I know that each thing that makes me feel happy when I look at it is a nod to the happiness that filled our home. How do I just give that away? I ended up passing it to my mother in law to keep at her house for younger grandchildren, hoping that she’ll hold onto it and in years to come, it will make its way back to me.
There are the tractors and Thomas the Train sets and the little butterfly purse one held in her hand while sitting by the Easter Bunny. I remember her little purses were always filled with bouncy balls, cars, little people and always a rock. But … I just can’t keep it all. I ended up giving that purse to my son’s Pre-K4 class for the kids to play with. As I sit here typing, it is actually running across my mind, “I wonder if I could get that purse back now. I should have kept it.”
I see the kids looking at old photos and saying, “Hey, I remember that toy! Remember when I use to pull it behind me everywhere? Where is it?” And I think to myself, “How could I have gotten rid of that?” As we flip through photo books and reminisce, I realize that our memories are within us, not within our things. I know that by holding on to their childhood toys and clothes, I’m trying to hold on to them … those days. I miss them. I’m not talking about the material things. I miss those babies, those toddlers. They were beautiful. They still are. I realize that as we reminisce and tell stories of the items, it’s our stories that are the most valuable. It has very little to do with the item itself, but everything to do with the memory attached to it.
So as I go through their toys and pull out yet more clothes that they’ve outgrown, maybe I’ll take more pictures to capture the memory and feel that sentimental pull in my heart, but I’ll know what a blessing our lives have been in the past and what a blessing it is that I get to continue to watch them grow.