Posted by: CeCe | April 28, 2012

Childhood in a box

Just after my mom died, I had one of the most surreal experiences of my life.  First, a little background (really, only a little).  A few years ago, when I was still with my ex, he got a job down in Oklahoma.  So, I packed as much as I could into the little amount of luggage I was allowed to take on the Greyhound, left everything else behind, and moved down to Oklahoma to be with him.  Over the years, I moved around so much that I never really had a chance to go through what I left behind.  My mom kept reminding me that I had boxes of stuff at her house, but I just never got out there to see them.

After mom passed away, I was able to help clear out her house for a short time before I had to go back to Germany, where hubby and I were stationed at the time.  During that time, I wound up in the storage shed off of the back porch, and there, I discovered my entire childhood.

Here was the stuffed lamb that my grandpa gave me when I was a baby, along with all the many other stuffed animals I had.  Each of them had its own name, most of which I still remembered as I touched each one, flooded with so many memories of happy times spent with them.  I always took excellent care of my toys, and many of the stuffed animals I had as a child are still in new condition, despite the many nights they spent in my arms while I was sleeping.

Here were my Barbies.  All of them.  As with my stuffed animals, most of them were in almost perfect condition, although hardly any of them were wearing the clothes with which they were packaged.  I remembered what I had named each of them as I gently lifted them out of their box:  Here was Terri (named after a neighbor in South Carolina), Monica, P.J., Ruth, Rachel, Nicki, Dana, Miko, Christie, Naomi, Charlotte, Charity, Stacy, and Marie, and so many others.  I remembered where their clothes came from: These outfits came in a single package purchased by my father, this dress was hand-made by my wonderful aunt, along with these outfits and these, this was purchased for me for my 9th birthday, I got these from my parents for Christmas.

Oh, and here were my Jem dolls:  The original Jem, whom I received for my 6th birthday, a newer Jem, Aja, and Video.  All of my Jem tapes.  I wondered if they would still play.  I took such good care of them.  My Aja doll and Video doll still look very new.

And the books!  So many of them!  Here was Socks by Beverly Cleary, the first chapter book I ever read.  Here were books by Madeleine L’Engle, more Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl, E.B. White, L Frank Baum, Ann M. Martin, and Judy Blume.  I spent many rainy days with these books as my only company.

Here were the cards that my 1st grade classmates made for me when I was in the hospital with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  That was scary.  I overheard my parents talking about a man dying from the disease the same day I was released from the hospital.

There were loads of birthday cards, most from my mom, but some from family friends too.  I treasured each one, and still do.

Not everything that I kept had a good memory attached to it.  For example, there was the stuffed rabbit I had gotten for the last Easter with my dad (I named her Josephine), which I had clutched close and cried into when my dad had an angina attack and I was so scared that he would die.  Which of course he did, a few months later.

As I began condensing the boxes into something more manageable and easy to store, I found myself letting go of a lot of things I never thought I would.  I only kept the things that meant the most to me, like the stuffed animals that I’d received from relatives and family friends who are no longer living, my Barbies and Jem dolls, the birthday cards, a couple of the get well cards, and some of the books.  It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be to let go of the rest.

In a way, I think that my condensing of my childhood into just three boxes was the physical manifestation of what we all do with our childhood.  We leave most of it behind, saving just a few gems (or Jems, whichever the case might be) to bring us a smile when being an adult wears us down.  We try to leave the bad behind, preserving only the best moments, such as the exhilaration from reaching a higher branch on a tree, or swinging higher on a swing, hitting a home run, or pedaling faster than we’ve ever pedaled before on our Huffy.  We remember the best aspects of our childhood, leaving the bullies and the fears (some irrational, some not) in the past where they belong.

I haven’t gone back to my boxes since right after my mom died.  I’m not sure I’m ready to yet.  There are so many memories, both good and bad, attached to the things I kept.  Maybe I will soon.  It’ll be nice to see them again.




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