Earlier this month my children and I escaped the cold, brown atmosphere of early spring in Utah for warm, sunny Las Vegas. One day we went to the Springs Preserve, an area dedicated to nature and history—I silently congratulated myself on choosing such a lovely, non-commercial outing after the kids spent hours in a museum learning all about the ecology of the Mojave Desert and the history of Las Vegas. But, then, we had to exit through the gift shop. Oh, the treasures in the gift shop! And Grandpa was willing to buy them treasures that they could take home! At least twenty minutes were spent discussing the relative merits of the coloring books, model dinosaurs, and gemstones available for purchase. I groaned inside as my nine-year-old picked out a four-foot-long plush snake (I was picturing the pile of stuffed animals already residing in our basement as well as the numerous pillows and friends currently living in her bed). My six-year-old picked out a toy turtle egg that could be placed in water, with the promise that within 48 hours a turtle would appear. We took the turtle egg back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, placed it in water, watched it faithfully for two days, and a toy turtle really did hatch. It was amazing. There was much weeping and wailing a few days later after we returned to our own house, left the turtle on the counter, and one of our cats chewed all its limbs off.
Now, a few weeks later, Mr. Turtle is buried somewhere in my son’s room, along with all the other pieces of extra special artwork, trinkets from birthday parties and the dentist, bookmarks, Lego projects, and books that he has accumulated. We try and clean out his room periodically, as well as those of his two sisters, and I feel that one of my hardest tasks as a parent is to try and teach my children how to throw things away. I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of possessions we have; even by United States standards, we are not wealthy, but my children have more than enough toys, clothes, and books to meet their needs. They bring home papers from school and church; they get trinkets from the dentist office and school; they love to spend their allowance at gift shops and the dollar bin at Target. When I read in Little House on the Prairie about Laura’s few, prized trinkets or her one, special Christmas cake, I feel a little bit of envy about the simplicity of life back then and a little shame at our modern, materialistic ways.
And yet, I can remember being a kid and the thrill of owning things. My very own possessions—things I didn’t have to share with anyone and that all had special meaning to me. I had a dresser with four drawers, and two of those drawers were my “treasure drawers”. I saved all kinds of things: postcards from places we had visited, birthday cards from relatives, pretty rocks and shells, a variety of things with Shamu on them, trinkets from carnival games or the dentist office, and so on. I loved to go through my “treasures”, organizing them and remembering the origin of each object. Tucked away in my cedar chest downstairs I still have a small box with some of those treasures. A tiny ceramic unicorn that I bought from the school store in fourth grade, after saving all my “gold bucks” for months. Two felt mice that I got at a truck stop in Idaho and inexplicably named Poughkeepsie and Jube. An odd little animal skull found on a beach in California. Each of these things brings back particular, specific memories. Perhaps someday my children will go through my things, find this box of treasures, and throw it away while wondering why their mother was so strange. That’s OK—I do the same thing to them right now; if only I could convince them that they will not miss those special candy wrappers a few years from now.
If you have kids, do you ever feel like they need an intervention from Hoarders? When you were a kid, did you have special treasures too? Do you still have them as an adult?