I have been going through boxes of old clothes, toys, books, and dishes, all neatly packed over years and years of living in one house since my mid-30s sons were toddlers. O, the treasures I have found! Every box I open is like a looking glass to the past, when the two boys were small and almost identical even though they are 17 months apart. I am able to go through their childhood, layer by layer, grade by grade – I'm going backwards, you see – from 12th grade where my son bought and paid for with his own money 36 graduation pictures, wallet sized, still sitting in the box they came in. That is somehow sad. I remember his face falling when I told him he was responsible for the pictures. What I hadn't figured on was the circus salesman attitude of the photographer – guilting my poor shy son into buying 36 pictures for "all those girls just clamoring to ogle you in the privacy of their own bedrooms."
Then on to a box full of headless G-I Joes. Now there's a story! I just don't exactly know what it is. I remember the boys playing with their G-I Joes, mixed with a huge bag of rubber Army soldiers, a third smaller than Joe, and a mismatch conglomeration of Star Wars characters and one Weeble. Here they sat, most without their heads, laying spent on the floor of the box, their masters having gone off to bigger things like getting married, buying a house, paying bills.
I lifted up another box and found every stuffed animal my two hunkie men would not part with. Not for the bully next door. Not for money. Not for a new razoo Big Wheel. Here lay the loved, cherished, treasured fuzzy creatures that kept the two safe from boogeymen at night. They'd been everywhere. They'd been in the bathwater, in the tree house, dragged behind their Big Wheels, tucked in with the neighbor girl's doll carriage, tied to the back of the patient and long-suffering family dog. They had no fur. Some missing eyes. Some with big safety pins holding buttons where eyes used to be.
One more box was in the kindergarten layer of memories. Those wonderful days when the boys were still my babies, still fat, still eat-em-up chunkie. Here were finger-painting drawings of Mr. Sunshine, the [same] family dog, Stick-Mommy, and Stick-Brother in front of a little house with eyes for windows and a smiley face for a door. I used to have this and 30 or 40 others taped to my fridge – rotating as the boys moved up in grades.
And finally – the little red hand print of my oldest, done in felt, backed by lace paper, the shape traced from his fat little hand. And underneath it all a Plaster-of-Paris plaque of my youngest son's fat squatty foot, delicious little toes formed in the plaster and the instep painted in glittery gold. I sat back and instantly could see the 20 little five-year-olds running around barefoot in the kindergarten class as the ever patient little kindergarten teacher (not much taller than her charges) was orchestrating the procedures for memorializing all their precious little feet. Sweet memories!!! The days go by way too fast when it comes to our children. I can't hold it clenched to my chest hard enough – they continually travel by, memory by memory.