Keepsakes and Memories

When is the right time to discard or find a new home for memorabilia? Every morning when I brush my teeth (and for that matter every night too) I see it. A small stainless steel cup, a raised teddy bear face on the front, my son’s name engraved on the back. It is somewhat like the sterling silver cup on the windowsill over my kitchen sink. One is filled with Q-tips, the other houses lip balms, assorted sewing needles and other small items. They were both gifts to my now 23 year-old son. I don’t think he realizes they are actually “his.” And while he does use Q-tips, he does not have a kitchen sink window in his Chicago apartment. But I wonder, at what time should I relinquish ownership to the rightful owner?

I have nooks and crannies all over my house that hold someonelse’s something. And while the two cups are emblematic they do give me pause. The collection of school art work, report cards and his National Honor Society certificate are all safely housed in a Rubbermaid container. Will he ever want them?

I’m not the first parent confronted with these questions. When I had been married 2 years and my husband and I were moving across state lines my parents had us stop by to “pick up a few things.” Let’s just say that it was a good thing we already had a truck. Some of the items I was ecstatic to take, like the antique oak curio my father salvaged that had been in my room since I was 10. Other things like paperback books were just things I then got rid of. But, I feel like my mother must have back then. She could not just dispose of the items of my past no matter how large or insignificant. It would feel just wrong.

I have a friend who helped her mother-inlaw move from a home of many years to a condo. In cleaning out the basement they came upon the dental retainer of my friend’s husband. That’s really a piece of personal memorabilia. That story prompted me to dispose of both my children’s retainers when they passed out of the land of orthodonture. But I hold on to other things.

I have small remnants of both of their “transitional objects.” Otherwise known as security blankets. They remind me of a sweet time in their lives when a soft cloth could ease their hearts and give them comfort.

The reverse of this story is of course the keepsakes I inherited from my own parent’s lives. The box of really old photos of nameless unknown people from the lives they had together and separate of each other haunt me from my attic. I just could not get rid of them.

These are not things I cherish, I just feel like releasing them is too close to erasing my parents lives from history. Periodically, I am able to get rid of something. The last winter jacket my dad wore hung in my basement for years until I could put it into a coat collection barrel. But that bowling shirt with his name on it, his driver’s license, I still have those.

And so I think I’ll keep the baby cups for a while longer. They really don’t fit into a 20-something’s decor. But there will come a time I’m sure when they will have to go to their true owner. But somehow I’m sure they will always mean more to me than they mean to him, I’m just say’n.

Do you have a treasure trove that is not quite treasure? Please comment and let me know.

Worst Mom Ever

A friend lamented the other day what an awful mom she was because after working two jobs, her volunteer duties and taking care of her two at home kids and dog she had taken her son to his Sunday track meet to discover one problem. The meet was Saturday. She just felt awful sure that she was a “bad Mom.” Her comrades in arms/Spanx all assured her she was not a bad mom and that “we’ve all been there.” But what is it that makes Moms so hard on ourselves?
Mixups and forgotten bake-sale cupcakes have happened to most of us and we all have felt the pain of self-censure. Nobody’s perfect. And nobody expects you to be perfect; except you.
Some time ago a Dad-type person I know took his daughters to Six Flags for some summer fun.
After the usual morning-time chaos and the hour drive to the park they arrived. Only for Dad to notice that his youngest, 6 or 7 at the time had forgotten her shoes. Without to much wringing of hands he drove to a nearby discount store and bought her some sneakers. Problem solved.
I don’t remember him telling me his daughter’s lack of shoes reflected on him as a parent. And it didn’t. (He did laugh when he told the story and call his little darling “goofy.) He did not think she would be forever scarred or damaged. He was right. And , she grew up quite beautifully. Now she peaks into patient’s brains as part of Hospital’s Neuro-surgical team. Not so “goofy” after all.
I think my girlfriend is a victim of what I call the syndrome of “Too many shoes.” It goes like this. You’re doing what you need to do working, managing the household, baking the cupcakes. When someone comes crazy-eyed into the room asking “Do you know where my shoes are?” They maybe 6, 16, or 26 years old and they have no idea where their soccer/sandals/ dressy black shoes are. You are equal parts frustrated with their inability to put things where they belong and frightened to realize you  do know where their shoes are.
You know where everyone’s shoes are.
Your head is full of footwear location information. And you are worried. Worried that they will never be able to manage their own lives if they cannot even find their footwear. Is it any wonder that sometimes a detail is overlooked or an afternoon double-booked when your head is full of all those shoes. Yes my friend has too many shoes.
I also think Moms are hardest on ourselves because we really know how much we loved our own Moms.  We try so hard to be that kind of Mom to our kids. And hind sight being 20-20, we now appreciate the little ways we were loved and nurtured by our own mom. Ways we never noticed while they was happening.
A year or two after my mom had died I was in a department store buying underwear. Nothing exciting just underwear. There was probably a sale. While waiting in line with the other women, all different ages, someone remarked that they liked it better when new underwear just appeared on your bed after school. Provided by Mom. We all agreed. This simple purchase for many of us, symbolized the intimate relationship of Mom caring for us like no onle else. Those day -of-the week underpants meant more than their cost in dollar and cents ever could.
So on this Mother’s Day I want to tell my friend she is a good mom too. She wanted to be at the track meet, she forgot the day. She does so many other small and big things for her kids that on this one occasion she confused the days. But she hasn’t once confused her children. They know shes loves them. They will know years from now that she always was thinking of them. She always knew where their shoes were. Because she always knew where her heart was. I’m just say’n.

Transition and Tafeta

This is shaping up to be one interesting week in our home. On Sunday a friend and I took my daughter on the mystical, magical hunt for a prom dress. This rite of passage came with it’s own feeling of one part nostalgia and two parts of disbelief. On Monday our 22 year old son accepted a job in Chicago. It’s his first post-college job not meant to be a “summer” marking -time job.

When I look back at the events in a family’s life that seperate the stages of life I am interested to see how we are all connected by these transistions and how alike my experience is to that of my co-workers and friends who have traveled this same road.

The friend who told me over and over “they’re only little for such a little time. ” When I was exhausted by lack of sleep and my days were ruled by nap-time and wipe-downs it seemed that they would be needy little sponges forever. But now it seems, as if those days just flew by. And oh that reminds me, “the day’s go slow the years fly by” was another pearl from another Mom I know. The truth is if we are on any level awake as parents we are continually having the kind of moments where we are surprised by the passage of time and our own transformation into “grownups.”

Because in my mind (and by that I mean your mind too) it was only yesterday when I was picking out a prom dress or starting a job I would keep past Labor Day. But somehow here we all are. And if your’e not on your way to the promwear department this week don’t worry you will be soon. I’m just say’n.