My father has been recovering from cancer lately, which has reduced his energy levels and kept him in the house. Because of that, he decided it was time to sort through and get rid of the massive amount of crap my parents had in the storage room. In doing so, he realized they had a lot of stuff belonging to my brothers and myself, and decided they weren’t storing anything for their adult children anymore.
Here’s the problem I have with that: I didn’t realize they were keeping anything for me. I moved out almost twenty years ago to start college. During my four undergraduate years, I went back for a few weeks each winter break, and maybe a month or so in the summers. After I graduated, I spent a month at their house before loading up a u-haul with everything I owned (or everything I thought I owned) and moved across the country, permanently. I have not lived within a thousand miles of them since 2000. If there was anything left behind in my old bedroom, it wasn’t stuff I wanted or cared about. It was junk. It was stuff that I thought was donated or disposed of fourteen years ago.
Now imagine my surprise when FedEx boxes with my dad’s handwriting on them started showing up at my door. At first I was confused as to why I was getting packages at all, and then, when I opened them, I was confused as to why my parents were sending me boxes of junk.
As an example, one box contained some old plastic puzzles (that they had given me in high school; I put them together once and promptly forgot they existed), a broken figurine (that I thought had been donated to charity, along with the rest of the figurines that arrived in a later box), a broken candle (what? really?) and a stack of comic books that very clearly belonged to my brother Jack (who told me to recycle them when I threatened to ship them to him).
There was a feather collection that I had assembled out of spite (really, mom? Tell your eight-year-old not to pick up dirty feathers? Now it’s my favorite hobby and I’m going to pick up all the dirty feathers). A sweater that probably looked pretty good in the late nineties, and is surprisingly too big for me now. My middle school letterman’s jacket, that astonishingly still fit. A t-shirt from a forgotten math competition that took place in 1987 (and is now a night shirt for Wildling, though it’s too big). A bunch of keychains. Receipts from a high school spring break trip to Cancun. A small jewelry box containing bits of what I guess is broken glass.
I asked my parents why they bothered sending me all this crap, when clearly I did not want it and had no use for it. My father explained that it was mine, and it was up to me to throw it away, not him. My mother told me I had to have that stuff, that it was necessary for a walk down memory lane. I disagree with them both, but I’ve never won an argument with those people, even when the argument is over what day of the week it is, or whether my husband is obsessed with caramel chocolates (he’s not, I swear, he swears too, but they will.not.believe.us.EVER!).
Out of all the stuff in the boxes that briefly passed their way through our house on the way to the thrift store, only two items have mattered and produced any form of enjoyment. Funny thing though, I don’t actually remember them from my childhood, and I wonder if they might have been Jack’s. The items were two rocks, about the size of fists, each with a dinosaur drawn on them in blue marker. One was a triceratops skeleton, the other just the triceratops skull and front legs. I didn’t draw them, or at least, I don’t think I did. I loved drawing as a kid and wanted to be an artist, but I was never very good. I don’t think I had the skill to draw these (not that they were very good, they were clearly done by a child), but Jack probably did. He was never into dinosaurs, though. Dinosaurs were always my thing. Maybe he drew them for me? It’s a lost memory.
When I pulled these rocks out of the box, my first thought was ‘Seriously? Shipping rocks? Good thing this is a flat rate box!’ And when I didn’t even recognize them as mine, I wondered what the hell I was supposed to do with them. Rocks aren’t exactly the kind of thing you can just donate to a thrift store. But then I decided to just throw them into the backyard and wait for Wildling to find them. Best idea ever.
When Wildling found the first rock, she was unbelievably excited: “What did I find, mama? What is this? It looks like a dinosaur! I’ve never seen one of these before!” She was practically dancing for joy. Then she found the second one and it was like her birthday and christmas and free-toy-giveaway day all at once. She was so far beyond excited that there isn’t a word to describe it. She was laughing and dancing and showing off her fossil dinosaur rocks and cradling them and putting them in a safe place and talking talking talking about how amazing it was that she found such awesome rocks.
That five minutes of pure adulterated joy made dealing with all the worthless boxed crap completely worth it. I’ve never experienced happiness like Wildling did, I’ve never seen or even considered such happiness to be possible. Now I need to find a way to see it again.