My name is Maria Ellaina Jiunta Heck and I am a purger. No… not the kind that throws-up a dinner of nachos, Tater Tots and Slim Jims, the other kind. Although…sometimes I wish I could…never mind.
I throw things away and I cannot stop. I can have my own reality show, instead of Hoarders: Buried Alive, we could call it Purgers: Picked Clean.
I have such an aversion to clutter that I've become addicted to eradicating superfluous…stuff. Over the years, my purging has landed me in some familial hot water, and more so recently, as my children are becoming a little bit more suspicious of where things have gone. They no longer believe the fairies have borrowed their junk to take to needy children who don't have enough of their own junk. In their fairy helicopter. Using their fairy frequent flyer miles.
It's my 18-year-old son who gets the most upset when he discovers an item from his past has, ummm, left the building. Like, forever. A typical discussion:
Him: Mom! Where are my Rams trophies?
Me: You mean the ones they gave you for just showing up? Those?
Him: YES! They were special! Special Just -Showing-Up-Trophies!
Me: Oh, listen, toots; they got chucked a long, long time ago. And, by the way, you never noticed.
Him: Why do you always do that??? You are throwing away my entire childhood!
Me: Sheesh. Dramatic much?
If he only knew what else I've thrown away, he would launch into a monumental apoplectic meltdown. I mean, really, who the hell said we have to save every, stinking item from our kid's past? Child, please….this house is not big enough for all the junk that we think is a memory. Trust me. This boy won't remember his brief stint in mini football by the time he's 28. He'll be too busy collecting shot glasses and beer cans from around the world by that point, anyway.
Listen, despite throwing away my younger son's entire Power Ranger collection and my daughter's Spice Girls Barbie dolls (which she doesn't know about, and God willing, you won't tell her) I'm not completely heartless. I've saved some baby clothes that didn't have vomit stains, Girl Scout badges, all the wrestling medals except for a few, and even baby teeth! I think. Maybe not. Can't recall.
I just don't get attached to very many things. From my own childhood, I have very little; a few Barbie dolls and their clothes that I made from washcloths and cotton balls, ensconced in my zippy, orange patent-leather overnight bag from 4th grade. And I did manage to abscond with one baby doll…that my sister drew on with magic marker because she wanted to make her more punk.
I must admit, I look at those poor, homeless Barbies and I guess sometimes I wish my mother didn't throw away their town house. Or, their 747 Jet in case they want to fly to St. Croix for the winter. Or their Special Fold-Out Barbie Camper they used exclusively with Ken. These days, they just sort of lie there, inert, in their ratty, old clothes, in their ratty-old orange patent-leather low income housing unit. It's sort-of sad.
Well, okay, I see the parallel…I'm a daughter of a purger and have become a purger myself. Now that we've talked it through, I feel a modicum of regret. But I still maintain that you don't need the stuff to retain the memories.
Will my daughter remember winning a Young Author's Award in 4th grade even if I mistakenly threw-out the plaque in our last move? Of course she will. Will Nicholas remember his first pin as a wrestler in 2nd grade even if I misplaced that medal? Yes! We don't need things! We just need each other. We store our memories in a tight little storage unit in our brain and open the door every third day to air out those recollections. You can't do that with a Penn State toilet seat cover or 113 Beanie Babies!
I was chatting with one of our favorite library patrons today about my purging tendencies. She was a little appalled. She's saved things you or I would never think to slip into a Ziploc baggie and throw into the attic for 25 years. She tells me she loves looking at these things and cannot part with them. They make her happy. When pressed for further details, she admitted she saved her children's…wait for it…umbilical cords. You read that right. And, if you think about it, which I can't without spitting-up, what greater thing can there be that connected a child to his mother? Certainly not a Power Ranger or a Barbie, that's for damn sure. So I applaud her faithfulness to that (unique) benchmark of infancy.
Man, I am a bad, bad mother.
So, kids, I apologize about your pretend trophies, your Pokeman cards, the MLB bobble heads, your Scooby Doo flashlight, those stupid Polly Pockets and their ridiculous cousins, the Sky Dancers – plus all your Hot Wheels…but I'm not sorry for de-cluttering your life and making you impress a real memory into your brain, instead of in an attic closet. And, I guess I may as well confess…Patrick, you never lost your air soft gun, Nerf guns and paint ball gun plus ammunition in the flood. We weren't in the flood. But I pretended we were and tossed them. Sorry.
So, long live your memories. They are what sustain you, balance you, uplift you and will be the blueprint for all your happiness. A fairy will not steal them and deliver them to anyone else in their helicopter. They are yours for keeps. Forever and ever.
Will my daughter remember winning a Young Author's Award in 4th grade even if I mistakenly threw-out the plaque in our last move? Of course she will.
We suspect many of Maria Heck's readers clip and save her columns which appear in this space every other week. Just don't tell her..