I’ve been CLEANING. Not so much spring cleaning, as season-of-life-cleaning. This move thing is getting real, twenty-three years of accumulation, and I’ve never been accused of being a hoarder, but still. The weird thing is how much I enjoy it. Reminiscing and purging somehow add up to real satisfaction for this mom turning Nana.
A couple of weeks back it was the school stuff in the kitchen cabinet. Lately where Jimmy’s been tucking his half-used notebooks, and I’ve had a stash of assorted artwork from all these boys. A watercolor spider and a chameleon, too – not signed by the artists, but if I remember correctly, Jimmy painted one and Felipe the other, their first year here in Minnesota. Childlike projects, and as I look back at scrapbook photos, it’s true they were hardly more than kids. The days are long, but the years are short – is what we say to moms of toddlers, and I’d guess it’s true for teenagers, too. Long days of endless winters, short years to becoming young men.
There were crayons in that cabinet, marked with G’s – in my handwriting at young Grant’s request. He liked his Crayolas tidy and sharp, didn’t want them mixing and breaking in the mess of his brothers’. All these years later I’m sorting through them, keeping the best ones, imagining a future farmhouse table, side-by-side coloring with little-girl Maisy. This G was your dad’s. Sharpie markers and colored pencils thinned out and organized into an antique Pepsi-Cola box, longtime fixture of our kitchen classroom, now just enough supplies for future grand-artists.
Books of origami, all Luke’s – the preferred craft of an intellect. And Nils’ assortment of pencil sketches in various notebooks, his best work stored away in binders and boxes in the storage room downstairs. The cabinets easy compared to that project looming later this weekend.
Saturday last it was the kitchen table. Dented deep from years of homework, Luke’s name stamped into yellowed wood. Dark brown ring from a Sterno can fire, close-call memory from Christmas past. Kyle and I carried the old treasure curbside with its three surviving chairs, and a homemade bench, prone to tipping. FREE, and by noon the whole thing loaded into a pickup by a mom and daughter, shouting their thanks.
Sons and wives, I give you fair warning. Between trips to Goodwill and curbside freebies, I’ll probably fill up a few special boxes to deliver to you. Some old school papers and a bit of memorabilia, too precious for my dumpster, but permission granted if it ends up in yours. Just NOT the scrapbooks. Those you keep. Even if your wife is a professional, and Creative Memories are no longer cool, and I am willing to admit, they are not. But those scrapbooks are love gifts and someday your kiddos will absolutely devour adorable pictures of little-boy daddy in his cowboy hat.
I read someplace recently, about Millennials, and how, as a whole, they are not sentimental. The opposite, I suppose, of our Boomer parents. And me, an Xer, somewhere between. Tomorrow morning I’ll tackle storage, Home Depot Bagster ready for loading. I’ll surprise myself at things I’ll throw, and things I’d never. No question keeping a Ziploc baggie full of Shrinky-dink sports heroes, endless hours Nils spent at said-kitchen-table. Luke’s history timeline, miniature reductions of homeschool projects. (We’ll rock-paper-scissors to see who keeps that.) Kyle’s got dibs on the Blackfoot model from Camp Nathanael, and where-in-the-world are we going to store it? Someplace alongside the red wooden barn, and the Advent quilt with its twenty-four pockets. Oh, and several shelves of favorite books. (I’ve cleaned the library two-times-over. The rest we’re keeping. Don’t even ask.)
Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.