Nicholas loves stuff. He’s constantly collecting things that he wants to keep. I get frustrated with how little he uses most of this stuff and how much it’s underfoot or visually cluttering our house. But last night I noticed a little box of his treasures that he’d left on the dining table before going to bed, and I was charmed by this collection of little things he thought were worth keeping.
The box is a small, orange, transparent vinyl thing with a metal frame; it has a lid, which must be around here somewhere. Daniel came by a set of three of these boxes somehow and just knew they would be good for something someday, and I was inclined to agree, although my first idea was gift-wrap, which was totally stupid because you can see right through them, duh! So they just rattled around the house until we had a child and were looking for things to contain small toys. Could it be that Nicholas finally is catching on to the idea that things should be stored in containers when not in use?? Hooray!
Anyway, this is what’s in that box now:
- a one-inch ring of plastic foam that once cushioned something in a package
- a black plastic ring with a spider on it
- a very small piece of aluminum foil
- the clear plastic lid from a little disposable cup of some kind of sauce or something (He often responds to my distress over disposable stuff by striving to re-use it!)
- a purple cloth flower from a Hawaiian lei
- a green pipe-cleaner
- three rubber bands
- a Starburst Fruit Chew wrapper
- a clear marble
- a short length of hot-pink wire twisted into a circle, with five tiny white beads threaded on it
- a paper clip
- a puffy sticker, which appears to be very old or at least faded and is no longer sticky, depicting a purple watering can on an avocado green circle
- a large black button
- a black-eyed pea
- the narrow end of a bottle brush (which broke off about three years ago–I had no idea it was still around)
- two green twist-ties, twisted together
- a tiny picture of a Starbucks coffee bag, cut out of an ad
- the lid from a film canister, with “Lost Buttons” on it in Daniel’s handwriting in permanent marker
- a tiny metal loop, bent slightly open
- a dried-up, curly leaf of green tea
- a length of clear vinyl cord with two knots tied in it and three heart-shaped plastic beads (red, yellow, and blue) in between knots
- two black plastic rings with bats on them
- a very neatly cut oval of paper from a Target ad circular
- a red craft gem
- a pinto bean
Nicholas just walked up to my desk and asked what I was doing. I explained that I was just making a list of these things and would give them all back. He picked up the marble, pressed it into the center of the foam ring where it fits exactly, and said, “Are you done with these? Can I play with them?” Yes. The device is now being transported in a toy train’s freight car.
I remember having little collections of treasures like this when I was a kid. One of the special things about my parents was that they allowed me to keep most of them. Most of my friends had mothers who would clean their rooms while they were at school and throw away anything that didn’t fit the decorating scheme. My parents let me keep, for example, a chunk of broken ceramic power-pole insulator, because it was such an interesting artifact–I still liked it even after learning that it was not a chunk of Indian pottery as I’d concluded when I found it in the back yard, and I kept it for years.
When I was a teenager, my dad and I looked through the scrapbooks his mother had put together for him during his childhood. One thing in there was an essay he’d written in first or second grade, entitled “My Good Drooer.” It was about the one dresser drawer in which he was allowed to keep anything he wanted. His family of four people lived in a small house (three rooms plus kitchen and bath) and there wasn’t a lot of space for stuff, but his parents understood that he needed a place to keep his “good” stuff…and his mother respected its importance so much that this was the essay she chose to paste into his scrapbook.
The clutter of “useless” objects drives me crazy sometimes, and I worry about Nicholas becoming one of those pathological hoarders whose home is navigable only by narrow paths winding between stacks of stuff. I need to set limits on his saving and help him to part with some things, and from time to time I do. But I know how important it is to get to keep some stuff that you value, that you enjoy holding and looking at and feeling, even if it isn’t “useful” in any objectively defensible way. Everyone deserves to have a Good Drooer.