See that pile on the counter? On the dining room table? Under the bed? That pile is where your love for your child lives. Why else would it be so prominently displayed?
Those Thanksgiving turkeys made from handprints are irreplaceable. They are the doorway to the time when absolutely every piece of art was praiseworthy.
The marble-drawings and stick-figures and apple-block prints prove that there once was a time when all they needed to be happy was a stick and some tempera paint.
A full-scale body tracing, like the happier version of a crime-scene chalk outline, lies rolled, folded, or gently lain in the corner. Photographs just weren’t good enough to do the preschool years justice. We somehow need a paper tracing to prove that they were once that small.
So much food that no one ever would eat. Pasta, cereal, beans, candy and rice, all sacrificed to the goddess of creativity. Glued to flashy papers, made all the more enticing to diligent ants, willing to forage on the bottom layers of the mountain of memories.
Ribbons, trophies, colorful rocks mounted to wooden bases all attest to your child’s expertise at frisbee throwing, three-legged races or some truly athletic feat for the under 4-foot set.
Crayons, artistically partially melted and then mounted to canvas or tin can, prove that rainbow order is real…or not.
Ticket stubs, playbills, event programs and dried flowers bear witness to their cultural influences.
Airplane tickets, cheap trinkets, glossy cardboard framed resort photos and hand-painted souvenirs of those first trips clog the spaces in between the artwork.
T-shirts, so many colorful t-shirts, each bearing a chest-emblem or block printing or paint splatter or tie-dye or permanent market signatures. None of those shirts will ever be worn again, although you could clothe a small village in such a bright, vivid array.
Their best work. Their term papers, book reports, math test with a big smiley face. Their theme books. Their folders with stories full of truly original characters. Not only did they work hard, but you stayed up late, rose early, and edited, edited, edited their efforts.
Then the serious work started. The PSAT scores. The SAT results. The college essays. The final finals. With so much invested, both in time and money, these artifacts truly deserve a seat at the table…the dining room table where no one ever dines.
Dried flowers. More medals. More trophies. Yearbooks. Mortar boards and tassels providing the literal cap to the summit of childhood achievements.
Now you, dear parent, you have been entrusted with these keepsakes. These are no longer just things, but they have become memories. Time will stand still as long as they are piled in the dining room. Although the kids have grown and maybe even matured and have mostly ignored these piles for over a decade, they still stand and bear witness to the child. Without any push or shove or change, these piles will stay, mostly untouched. At best, they may get moved from left to right, until they get dumped into a plastic or cardboard box. They will fade and wrinkle and tear and gather dust. And although you think they are memories, what they really represent are the memories you hold in your heart and your head and your photo collection.
So as another school year draws to a close, and another batch of creations are sent home, consider your kid’s art. Consider the expensive real estate that you are sacrificing to badly warehouse the few true treasures in the cluttered piles. Consider that in 10 or 20 years, your child will be on their own, hopefully living a life they love in a home of their own.
Will it be worth it to hand them a box of crushed flowers, random trinkets and torn papers, only to have them say, “Thanks Mom. I didn’t even know you kept this stuff. Trash day is Friday.”
Also published on Medium.
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