In the process of reorganizing the basement storage/work room, K and I have been tearing open boxes that have sat virtually untouched for years. Most of it consists of my own belongings, packed up while I lived in Poland in the late 1990s (eventually repacked into sturdy Rubber Maid storage bins). My parents moved, and instead of making the decisions for me, they left it to me, ten years later, to go through the stuff and toss out that which was once treasure but now trash. Granted, I could have done it earlier, but I lacked the serious motivation. Who wants to root around through old boxes of memories?
I had cracked the box that I knew contained my photographs. Eventually, when I moved back to Poland in the early 2000s and dumped on them all my earthly possessions collected in Boston and Polska, the box grew to contain pictures from close to thirty years of my life. It was a strong incentive, and I’d gone through that box several times.
The rest of the boxes remained packed, essentially for close to fifteen years. This was the week that I opened them.
The vast majority were books and toys from my own childhood that my mother had saved. Most of them were in remarkably good shape, especially the books. Not a spot of mold; not a hint of mildewy age.
I found a Harriet the Spy tour location tour on Flickr while writing this — well worth the time of any fans.
And so I took some time to go through books from my childhood, most of which I hadn’t held in my hands for at least twenty-five years. A look at the title and I remember almost everything: plot, illustration style with specific illustrations, and even my favorite parts. Petunia, the Sweet Pickles series, Benjamin Dilley’s Lavender Lion, stacks of Tell-A-Tale books—and so many other books I didn’t even remember having until I pulled them from the box. Near the bottom, late-childhood favorites hid: Harriet the Spy, a book on real, scary sea monsters, a book on tornadoes.
There were few specific memories about the books. Instead, it was general feelings, peaceful feelings. Calm.
I pulled several out to give to L.
Her collection grows, and her eyes always light up when she gets a new book.
She takes books everywhere: she wants them by her as she plays; she wants them in the car with her; she wants one when on the potty. All of these are negotiable. The non-negotiable is the bedtime book. Usually her pick. That night, though, I chose: Petunia.
“Poor Petunia. Poor animals.” L mutters sympathetically when the firecrackers go off, scattering and injuring the animals.
I’m doing more than passing down books; I’m sharing memories in the most direct way, by recreating them.