Storing Memories

Words by Sloane Citron

Photos by Scott R. Kline

Rather suddenly, as per my last essay, I have five grandchildren. And the time went by so quickly that it did not dawn on me until recently that I needed to attend to an important chore on their behalf.

In our family home, off of the upstairs playroom, we have a storage area, about 8’ by 10’ with a roof that you can almost stand up in. Throughout my kids’ childhood years, we sloppily packed their outgrown clothes, toys, books, dolls, ski gear and everything else we couldn’t bear to throw out in cardboard boxes and plastic tubs and eventually filled the space.

The result was a crammed mess, and I so disliked having to think of dealing with this room and its contents that, despite the blossoming of the next generation of Citrons and the obvious purpose of saving all of this hazarai, I put it out of my mind. Almost two years went by after the birth of the first grandchild until I realized that I needed to get up there and start the dirty job of sorting everything out.

Emboldened on a boring Sunday afternoon, I waded in there as if I were entering a dirty swamp, unsure of what might lie beneath the water. In the dusty, dimly lit room, I pulled a few boxes aside, only to realize the enormity of the project. As I slowly moved some of the heavy, reachable pieces into the playroom, a bit of quick math led me to estimate that there were 40 to 50 boxes and tubs of various sorts in there, along with much else. After tugging and tossing for a half-hour, trying to make sense of it, I realized that the only thing to do was to take everything out of the room and figure out what we really had.

That I did and our once clean playroom became a total mess. I created six areas: clothing, books, toys (including dolls), saved school projects and art, miscellaneous and throwaway. I opened each box and placed it into its proper area. It was slow going as I found past treasures that elicited happy memories, causing me to pause.

I tackled clothing first. Some boxes had faded markings on them (0-6 months) and some had none. My 22-month-old grandkids had already outgrown some of the items. I found that about half the boxes were wrongly labeled or not labeled at all, so I pulled out the clothing and tried to find sizes on them. Then I placed everything in the correct boxes and wrote in black Sharpie my best guess of the age and sex (Boys 5-6 years; Girls 8-9 years).  Apparently, we stopped this nonsense when the kids were 12 or so since there was nothing after that. All told, there were about 25 boxes of clothing.

There were about 10 large plastic tubs of toys, and I enjoyed opening them and remembering with great fondness my children playing with them. One of my favorites was the rotary phone with a sound-producing dial. I laughed, realizing that my grandkids wouldn’t have a clue what it was! There was an overflowing tub of Beanie Babies, hundreds of them. Still not worth anything. Two huge containers of Lego blocks, a box full of American Girl clothing, though no dolls, and two heavy boxes of wooden blocks.

In the four large boxes of books were titles that meant a great deal to me since I had read to each child every night for as many years as they would let me. I happily pulled out appropriate books to share now. The rest I put back into tubs, labeled by when I believed our new generation would be interested in them.

Apparently, we had saved every art project and report our kids had ever done. I knew that my now adult children were not going to want these. I also knew that I could not bear to throw them out and that I would just put them back in the storeroom, waiting for my future demise and forcing my children to deal with them someday.

And so much more: the telescope that my Dad had taken such pleasure in giving to me that I could never throw out; boxes of ski clothes, again by age; bikes and trikes; furniture and well, a lot of stuff.

There was one category that was neglected: the throwaway area. Besides some broken plastic tops and some bent hangers, the pile never materialized. I felt strong time-shifting melancholic memories seeing and touching these material objects. I wonder if we saved all these items more for ourselves than for our grandchildren. I’ll gladly pull everything out in another few years to once again be transported to one of the happiest periods of my life.