Hoarding the Past

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My 13-year-old daughter recently decided to retheme her room to make it more teen and less little girl. I fully supported the endeavor because, y’all, there was A LOT of junk up in there.

But what I did not anticipate was the complete and total removal of her entire childhood. Bags, and bags, and bags, of relics and items from days long gone were tossed aside swiftly and easily. I thought she would just throw away some of the clothes she outgrew, and maybe a few of the broken toys.

But when I reentered after watching her go up and down the stairs for hours, I was both in awe of her ability to Marie Kondo that space and heartbroken at how her childhood had simply vanished in a few hours.

She had organized her “junk” into three piles:

  1. Actual garbage — which I fully supported and quickly removed.
  2. Little Sister Stuff — those items appropriate for her four-year-old sister to immediately use and love (think dozens of stuffies, fidget toys, and Disney merch).
  3. Donations — mostly clothes and more “senior” items such as makeup brushes, curlers, nail polish, etc.

As I worked my way through the donation pile, my heart began to flutter and my eyes began to fill. I was literally holding her childhood in my hands. With each item, for just a skinny second, I could feel, see, and literally touch that person she once was.

That ballet tutu — there is that four-year-old you! How could I possibly let the four-year-old you go to the donation bin? And those glow-in-the-dark nail polishes I painstakingly painted on your nails? Oh, I can clearly see those eyes and that smile that disappeared many moons ago. If I donate these, does that mean I never see that smile again? And what about that favorite Mickey sweatshirt we bought way too big with the promise you will grow into and be able to keep it forever? I can hear your pleading, and now that it finally fits, how do we just discard this promise? This memory? 

It takes literally everything in my power not to go and put it right back in her room: on the shelves and in the closet. And not at all for her. Nope. Totally for me. So I can go and relish in the memories with some tangible feels. Holding on to these items serve as a time machine, if for only a second. And while we dance and bump through the teenage years, I am finding I need the time travel more than ever.

But as I watch her confidently pick her new paint color, shop on Amazon for a new light fixture (BUT YOU HAVE HAD THAT CHANDELIER SINCE YOU WERE BORN!), and rearrange all her furniture with style and precision . . . I realize all that I have given her emotionally and lovingly, led us to this exact moment. Her persistence and determination to do it herself, her desire to march to the beat of her own drum, her ability to separate the past from the present . . . well, these are all the things, and then some, that I wished for when she was twirling in that tutu, while playing with her fidgets, and sleeping under that chandelier.

I both hate and love this moment. It is an odd feeling that I am still not sure I fully grasp.

But, what I do grasp, is time marches on. And while we have to let go of things, even when we do not want to, it is okay to pause for a minute and mourn their passing, while appreciating the great moment we are in. Parenting does not guarantee just one emotion at a time. In fact, it almost certainly guarantees all the feels happening simultaneously.

So, I’ll take down that chandelier and post it to Facebook Marketplace. And I’ll lug all those bags to Goodwill. Heck, I’ll even take some of the stuffies discarded in her sister’s room to the trash can. And I promise to only hoard the most special of the special and tuck them away at the bottom of my closet for those days when I need to return to the past for a skinny second. And I bet, that one day, she will also be glad I did!

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