I have a small cardboard box in the closet under my stairs. I found it the last time I was up in the attic, and brought it down to look through. It contains the things that I kept from my childhood. It’s not filled with the things my mom saved for me…those things are in scrapbooks, in a box of school work from my elementary years, or in the cedar chest. No, these things are just things I kept on my own. When I left for college, I took a few of these with me. Of course, at that age, I only took the things that wouldn’t get me laughed out of my dorm. Then when I got my first place of my own, I took more of my things from my childhood home. On my visits home, I would always bring a stash of things back with me. And when my dad died, I did the last sweep for stuff before letting the rest go. With each move I made over the years, the collection slimmed down some. But somehow, I’ve dragged this last bundle of stuff around with me all these years.
Kids are like little magnets. They come home with extra items in their pockets. They save things that mean nothing to anyone else. They trade things with friends for other things they covet. They hang onto toys from the Cracker Jack boxes, charms from the gumball machine, or birthday gifts from classmates. They stash these items just about anywhere. It might be under the bed, in a dresser drawer, under the mattress, in the closet, or just all over the floor. As kids grow up, some lose interest in these things. But some hang onto them, as I did. Once in a while, I drag them out and go through them, reminiscing about each one. I suppose many of you have such a collection somewhere in your homes. I’m also sure that many of you left all of that stuff behind when you left your childhood homes. But in my case, these things were important enough to schlep to 3 states and keep for 30-some years.
What interests me is what makes these things so important to me. None of them is worth a fortune, nor would anyone find them collectable but me. These things are not even the most important things from my childhood. Regretfully, many of those were left behind, lost, or given away by my parents before I could speak up. These things are just little tchatchkes. Yet even after all these years, I can remember where or when I got most of them. They still churn up the old feelings I had for them when I was a kid.
Among my prizes is a St. Louis Cardinals bobblehead from before bobbleheads were cool. There’s also a miniature Cardinals bat, and a small, vinyl Cardinals purse. (We grew up in E. St. Louis…what can I say?) I have a round deck of cards, as well as a miniature deck that I loved playing solitaire with. I have 2 tiny dictionaries…one German, and one French that I got at an early book fair. I have a horseshoe my aunt and uncle gave me from a racehorse they owned long ago. There’s a giant copper penny, and some old money from a long ago visit to Springfield, IL. There’s a vinyl stuffed autograph dog that I got for a birthday (around 8 or 9), which was signed by my family and friends, as well as my autograph book, with only a few signatures in it (again, family and friends, rather than anyone famous.) I still have my very mod, bright orange and yellow, wind-up alarm clock from when I was maybe 10 or 11. I kept a tiny wooden vase and a tinier glass elephant that were in a curio cabinet at my Baba’s house. I have a (now broken and glued) little statue of the 3 monkeys doing the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil pose that belonged to my Grams. I have the “clacker balls” that were eventually outlawed as too dangerous, but were all the rage in the early 70’s.
I could go on and on, but you get the gist. I know it seems ridiculous to keep these things, but I’m hanging onto them for now. Every once in a while I’ll get them out and review my memories once again. I don’t know what will happen to these things when I’m gone, but maybe one day some kids will pick them up out of the free pile at the estate sale and stash them in a box somewhere.