Determined to avoid an American Hoarders intervention session, we decided to tackle the “stuff” in the basement. My husband M took the side with the ski equipment, extra golf clubs, folding chairs and the like. With efficiency and precision, he handled the task admirably. K and I took the side with the toys, books, and other cherished belongings. We took a little longer, and there’s still work to be done. But to be fair, we had the harder job. Our stuff was the good stuff.
We started with the box full of “guys.” Small plastic figures representing Disney movies of her toddlerhood, K had simply called them guys from the start. I can’t put a number on the hours we spent playing with those characters. They rode along on Thomas the Train tracks. They hung out in the beautiful wooden dollhouse and in the assorted plastic Polly Pocket residences. They loved the animals in the Fisher Price red barn. They came to doctor’s visits and the grocery story. They visited Nana and Pa’s house. They were the guys and they were everywhere.
I don’t remember K ever having a favorite overall but I do remember how she felt about King Triton from The Little Mermaid. Sometimes she would separate the guys into two lines – good guys and bad guys. You can imagine the bad guy line: Scar, Gaston, the Witch from Snow White, etc. In our house, King Triton was also in with the bad guys. The first time I noticed I pointed out to K that King Triton was Ariel’s dad and was in the wrong line. K looked me in the eye and informed me that King Triton was absolutely a bad guy. “He destroyed Ariel’s things, Mom. He’s a really bad guy.” “Well K,” I replied, “that was wrong but he was scared for Ariel. He was trying to protect her.” “Mom, he’s her dad and he took her most precious things and destroyed them. He’s a bad guy.” She had a point. Triton thought he was keeping Ariel safe but to destroy her things was bad and wrong. He was in the right line.
“I think J (K’s three year old cousin) would love the guys, Mom. Let’s give them to J.” She’s right. J will love them. He’ll take them places and they’ll play with his plastic animals. K’s old Thomas trains are at his house so they’ll feel at home there. K decides to keep just a few – some of the dwarfs and a couple of other good guys. We put the box aside and move on.
We sort and separate. Broken things with missing pieces are thrown in the trash. The vast collection of plastic horses is combined into one box. Dinosaurs are sorted into keep and give away. McDonald Happy Meal toys are culled through. K keeps the most favorite of her VHS tapes and we resolve to spend a day together watching them all. Surprisingly, The Little Mermaid makes the cut.
We get hungry and tired and start sneezing from the dust. It’s time to quit for the day, but I notice a box K has been filling with an odd collection of things. “K, what are those? What box do they belong in? What category are they?” I ask in a tone that indicates my patience had already quit. “They’re memories, Mom. That’s their category.” I look more closely at the contents. There’s the pink haired gnome doll that K selected from the hospital gift shop. She was three and visiting my dad for the first of many, many visits to that wretched place over the years. We were hurrying to get to his room when K saw the gift shop and declared that she needed to get her Pa a present. When her Pa died eight years later, he still had that foolish gnome doll and K claimed it. There’s a small piece of railing one of our contractors gave to her when she was two. He was building an addition for our house and K adored him. He made her a special block out of the railing and she kept it when she gave all her other blocks away last year. A dozen tiny bears and some plastic eggs that looked like cut glass fill out the collection.
“But what category?,” I begin and stop myself. She’s right. Those things are memories. Memories that can’t always be categorized or labeled like good and bad guys in line. We put the box, as is, on the shelf and head up the stairs to get some lunch. We’ll finish the rest another time. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a day of watching old videos very soon.