Boy, it’s too bad none of you had any opinions about my wedding dress. (Wait, is this a TOMATO someone threw at my head, there? C’mon, now. That would’ve been lovely on your salad, come lunchtime.)
I have to tell you that I was ready to rid myself of the wedding dress without a backwards glance; I was just unsure of the best avenue for doing do. But after 80-odd comments exhorting me to THINK OF THE CHILDREN (specifically, to think of how my daughter might consider such a thing), I made a terrible mistake. I asked Chickadee about it.
And she begged me to keep the dress. OF COURSE. I mean, I had known she would, which is why I hadn’t asked her in the first place. And I hadn’t decided not to ask her because I knew she’d want it and I’ve set my heart on being a horrible monster who disregards her feelings, but because there is NOTHING on the planet that Chickadee doesn’t want to keep. Forever.
Both of my children are incurable pack rats. I am lazy about decluttering, often, but I am not a sentimental hanger-on-er, for the most part.
I have a box of “school stuff” I keep in the closet. Each year, I add a few select items from the reams and reams of papers the kids bring home every week. As the children get older, the items I add to the box become fewer. Because I want to remember that once upon a time Chickadee believed you cook a turkey at 900 degrees for six minutes, and that Monkey’s first girlfriend consumed him, but the fact that now they can do long division and are mastering fractions, well, doesn’t seem quite so important.
I own almost nothing from my childhood, and that’s fine with me. When Otto and his brother helped me do the final clean-out of my house in New England, Wild Thing threw my box of high school and college journals (which I’d been toting around the country for years) into the trash. When I realized this, I stopped to consider, for a moment, if they were worth digging out. It was with some relief that I realized my need to clutch those difficult times had passed, and I no longer needed to carry around the paper proof that I existed back then.
Nothing makes me happier than clean and tidy spaces, and things like the three boxes which have gone unpacked for two years are more a casualty of guilt than sentimentality—I feel like I should WANT to keep that stuff, even though I really don’t.
The superfluous things I like to spend money on all DO things, too—I am not, and never have been, a collector of things simply meant to BE. I covet kitchen gadgets that will make my food preparation both simpler and more geeky. I like pretty shoes that will make me feel sassy when I wear them. Sometimes in the wee hours of the night I find myself doing things like ordering dwarf lime trees because HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE, to just stroll out onto the deck the next time I need a little lime juice?
A while ago I was sorting through one of those maybe-I-should-keep-these-things boxes and came across a picture of Chickadee and a friend of hers from kindergarten. The picture itself was unremarkable—it was taken, I think, at a birthday party—and the girls are half-turned away from the camera and the exposure is poor and neither of us could remember the name of the other child. But when I made to throw it away, Chickie burst into tears and begged me not to. She wanted to keep it, because it was “a part of her life.”
And before you get down “awwww”ing, let me also point out that during the recent Spring cleaning I also found an abundance of things like crumpled scraps of paper that said “sit here” or “admit one” or “library list” that my daughter ALSO insisted were parts of her life and therefore could never, ever be thrown away.
It’s not that I don’t believe in saving special things. I crocheted a blanket for each child while I was pregnant with them; those are carefully wrapped and stored and will be given back to them for their own babies, someday.
But I cannot keep that wedding gown. It was a mistake to bring it up to Chickadee, and now I feel sad that she’s going to be angry at me about it, but I just can’t. She can borrow the pearls I wore, or the earrings I borrowed from my mother that day. And the engagement ring her father bought me will, as planned, be made into a pendant for her when she’s older. There will be reminders and memory-laden items and history to pass along to her. I’m not trying to erase the past; neither do I think my daughter’s propensity for saving everything should extend to harboring a giant box with a singular purpose, full of so many things it pains me to remember.
The dress is going away. I hope she’ll forgive me, and make new, happier memories—more about love, and less about stuff.