Sticks and swords and light sabers. I’m overrun. You’d think now that two of my boys are on their own and my youngest is 16 that it wouldn’t be an issue anymore. Of course it was when three boys were in house. Every time I picked up a new laundry basket, I’d get a tall one too, for weapons. They have been sitting a few years, but moving out of the family home means finding a home for them. I asked my son if he wanted to leave some for the family with kids that would be renting our house. He said,
“Oh, they would love that.
I tried again, “Well, remember how excited you were every time you found a new Nerf gun at the Goodwill? Imagine all the kids faces you could put smiles on if you donated them all.”
“Oh, they would love that.
He then reminded me of all the times he moved the couches back and practiced his Jedi (or Sith) skills in the old living room, and the stick fights on the lawn, and the Anime sword wars.
“Mom! This (pointing to the massive pile of toys on today’s living room floor), is my childhood!“ I relented. I have a little space left in storage and several boxes I am dedicating to all the old toys that he cannot seem to let go of yet.
I am pleased that my son enjoyed his childhood enough to not want to let go of it. But it was my Grandmother’s antique furniture that really helped me understand. My grandmother had this massive country house in northern Pennsylvania where our Mom took us for a week most of the summers during my childhood. I adored going to Gramma’s house. I still tell stories of walking through the corn fields, wading in the creek, swimming in Buck’s pond, going to the Harford Fair, and even painting the fence one year. I vividly remember watching the light blue sheer curtains whispering in the breeze when I slept in the front room.
When I was quite a bit older than my son is now, my Grandmother moved out of her house and into ours here in Virginia. She offered her belongings to her three children and after they were done everything else was sold at auction. I could not believe my parents let all those beautiful things be sold instead of moving them to Virginia. Mom and Dad both explained to me that we didn’t have room for it, but somewhere inside of me I thought they should have figured something out! Why wouldn’t they at least keep it for me or my sisters for our future homes?
After I was married, I did end up with a set of her furniture and spent quite a bit of time and effort to refinish it. I hate to disappoint my relatives, but eventually I realized that I don’t even like antique furniture. My earlier intense feelings had nothing to do with her stuff. It was her. And the feeling of love and security and creativity and nature I absorbed from my time at her house.
My son already knows. He is keeping the items because of the joy he wants to hold onto from his childhood. Taking up some room in storage for things that will most likely end up at Goodwill in a few years, is nothing compared to that. I love that although he can’t let go, he is fully aware that his desire to possess the items is intrinsically related to his need to feel. My friends and I joke about “retail therapy,” all the time, as if possession is a good substitute for dealing with the pain some feelings engender. I wonder if the poet’s words apply here when he says:
“May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire. That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.” John O’Donohue, For Longing
How can I possibly be disturbed when my child wants to hoard a little bit, to help him feel? How can I when I tend to buy or sell or create or whatever, in order not to feel? He amazes me with his ability to make the connection. He knows he needs time to let those beautiful childhood feelings cement in his mind. I hope to learn from him and face the disturbances in my life when I settle for something safe, like a shopping spree, instead of sitting with the pains the voice of desire can bring.