five chunks of sea glass, large ones brightly colored which suggests this is “manufactured” sea glass, not the find-at-the-beach kind
a red knotted yarn for string games
lip balm in a green case with cross-and-skullbone designs—obviously marketed for Halloween and boys
a map of the Paris subway system?
Yesterday was the annual pre-Christmas purge of my children’s tiny bedroom, netting two bags of trash and two bags of stuff for the consignment shop. I find not only the items my kids use, but the packaging of several things, torn boxes, pieces of cardboard. I find numerous children’s menus from Friendly’s, Bertucci’s, Jalapenos. I move the seldom-used stuffed animals and dolls back to their home in the Guatemalan hammock, high above.
I find the special stashes of glitter glue and stickers that were given protective custody for so long that no one remembers where they are—tubes of glitter glue in the back of the old jewelry box, tucked into the play mailbox, rolls of scotch tape tucked among the handmade dolls. Jammed under the dresser is my dusty old computer keyboard, where it’s been hiding since July, encased in cardboard—I put it in the trash pile.
It’s been a month of stitchery projects, so the collection of used paper is not overwhelming, this time—M and B and I sorted an entire office-storage box a month ago, crammed with drawings and paintings. Usually I do this in the dark of night, but now kids are old enough to recognize that not every drawing is remarkable enough to even remember what the drawing is about.
Scott firmly believes in keeping everything, always, as if he (or anyone he knows) lived through the Great Depression, or a time of shortages. “I hope you didn’t throw out anything good,” he says when I clean.
“Explain to me the qualitative difference between a collection of six cheap Hawaiian leis and a collection of thirty-six identical leis. Or the reason why to keep ten boxes of cheap giveaway crayons from Friendly’s, the kind that break on impact with the paper, when we have a good collection of German crayons and Crayolas. Do we need the box that every item came in? Do we need five wooden train whistles, just because we’ve been given five train whistles? We need space.” He consents to let me be me, the hausfrau goddess. Some items do get tucked away in case someone asks for them—but not many.
So today I come to Brendan’s backpack, to see what he’s forgotten there. A pencil, good. A booklet from the New England Aquarium—we went in early summer, six months ago. A tiny stuffed pig, perhaps four inches tall.
And a map of the Paris subway system.
I’ve never been in the Paris subway system, nor in Paris, nor even in France. I’ve been to Ireland, which is technically in Europe. I can’t think of anyone I know—or anyone the kids know—who has recently been to France. The map is in French. It’s not something he could simply pick up in a local store.
Brendan and Madeleine have been asking me about passports. His friends Salome and Sophia travel to Hawaii often, and Madeleine’s friend Helen has a Canadian/American dual citizenship. We need to buy passports soon, so we are free to cross the Canadian border easily.
But he’s seven, and perhaps the youngest age seven that’s ever been. He just lost his first tooth. How did he get a map of the Paris subway system? Does he have a plan to go?
Good thing he loves his mama. He won’t travel anywhere without me, anytime soon. He’s just learned to bravely walk two doors down to visit the little girls on our block, and I can see it takes all the determination he possesses to walk out that door by himself.
I leave all the treasures where I found them, in his pack. I’ll check with him after school to ask if he remembers who gave him the map or why. I bet he won’t remember and we’ll be left with the mystery. He’s wrapped up in today, in the golden “angel coin” left by the tooth fairy. (The tooth fairy did not have her glasses on. She thought the coin was a shiny Sacagawea dollar coin for spending—but this is so much better! It’s a gold coin imprinted with the image of an angel on each side. He ran out singing, an angel coin, an angel coin, the tooth fairy left me an angel coin…)
The room is clean enough for now. Madeleine and I constructed a case for her “mandala maker,” from a green wool sweater, with a pocket for the colored pencils. I left Brendan’s one special pizza box (which means I got rid of three stashed non-special pizza boxes) marked with numbers for a marble game, and the long cardboard tube with “marble shooter” written backwards down the length. For Christmas, I need to work with Madeleine to make a suitable case for her American Girl doll clothes and accessories. I’ve made a half-dozen small treasure bags from solo hand-knit socks I can’t bear to part with, for marbles, for jacks, for angel coins and sea glass. I’ll keep looking for other junk to eliminate and other ways to organize stuff.
Today I need to sort the basket of papers on my desk, so there is room for the Advent Lantern and a small wooden tree. It’s unlikely I’ll run into anything as remotely interesting as a map of the Paris subway system.
But then, you never know.