I’m a keepsake packrat. Like the outfit my sweet baby wore home from the hospital or that brown plaid shirt my husband wore on our very first date. It still has a little tiny hole in it from where his pledge pin went. How cute is that?
These things mean nothing to anyone else, but to me, they are priceless. I never take them out and run the tattered fabric though my fingers, or line the walls with monogrammed onsies in shadow-box frames (thank goodness, because we put people who prefer to do these things in group homes). Instead, I vacuum seal them, keep them in our attic, and freak out if my husband tries to move them to a storage unit or sets them anywhere near the corner of the garage reserved for Salvation Army Pick-up.
Ridiculous, our attachment to such things. Are we thinking that somehow, we can transfer the memories to our offspring so they will also save them, and then we’ll have five generations of sleepers and Christmas dresses to store until the end of time? “Oh, look honey. It’s a tiny little t-shirt that says Back Seat Driver that some ancient-relative-I’ve-never-met wore! And this glass bottle with a cracked yellow nipple? Priceless!”
I have two huge keepsake boxes for my children, because I’m sure they will want to use the same napkins from my very first baby shower (I was given three extra packages!). I’m absolutely positive my granddaughter will want to see the coloring books given to guests on her mother’s fifth birthday. I even saved cupcake toppers, in case my great grandson wants to stick fifty-year-old toothpicks with rotten paper elephants in mounds of chocolate icing. Because they so totally will. Don’t spoil my dream.
To make matters worse, I included little cards indicating the significance of each one. Like “you wore this dress on your 5th Birthday!” and “this was your favorite night-night book!” I document such things because I want you, dear offspring, to at least feel shooting pains of guilt as you load this crap into your minivans and head to the Goodwill drop-off the minute I pack my bag for the nursing home. Or, worse, it will force you to cram you children into old smelly clothes that have been sitting in a box for half a decade to please your delusional mother. Then you can store them for another forty years until they are eaten by rats. See how awesome I am? You can totally thank me later.
I thought of all this as my mother was lamenting how kids these days don’t sing the same songs that we did when we were kids. No one in this century runs around whistling Father Abraham. And if they did, I feel kinda sorry for them. Because there are new fabulous songs with movements and catchy tunes that are more exciting than the old. We can’t transplant everything we loved into our children so that they will see them the way we did. They have different eyes. They live in a different world. They don’t really want used and worn-out baby shoes, or every Christmas dress. They want to experience it for themselves. They want to start brand new keepsakes. They want to bloom.
I went to the attic and stared at the boxes I’ve been saving. Shoes and bonnets and recital pictures. Albums and records and hundreds of pictures. I wonder why I feel it’s so important to live in the past. Why I can’t free myself of the dusty memories.
If Jesus tapped me on the shoulder and said simply Follow me, I might just put my hands in a time-out for a sec to see if we could have a tiny little discussion about all these keepsakes. I’m so totally there, this whole following God into the wilderness business, but can I negotiate a rider? Like a teensy weensie addendum regarding the wedding album? After all, it took me weeks to chronicle all that happiness and paste the little stickers in the scrapbook, and I’d hate to throw all that out. Right?
As it turns out, it might just be stuff after all. If those boxes burned to the ground, the stories are already saved in my heart. They are woven throughout bedtime stories and summer nights and lightening bugs and popsicles. My children will smell fresh bread and cut grass and strong coffee and be transported back home, where the pillows are soft and the sheets are dried on the line. They will have so many memories and jewels in their crown that come from their childhood, and the stories that I write, and the love between their mother and father than transcends space and time.
Help me, Lord, to build up keepsake boxes in their hearts. Today, when I lost my patience and yelled for everyone to just be quiet and said we were never, ever going to get smoothies as long as they lived if they were just going to sling them around the backseat, I didn’t mean it. These are the years of keepsakes, every one. Help me relish it and drop those moments into storage, to be pulled out, and laughed about, and treasured.
The boxes can burn. Because I’m filled with all those lovely memories that can’t be stripped away. These keepsakes don’t rot or get musty with mildew or bear someone else’s monogram. Now that’s worth saving. And passing on.