The Things We Leave Behind

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I lost a lot of my toys in the summer of 1984. That was the year my parents bought a house in preparation for the arrival of my little sister. I was sick during the move and spent most of that time on my Grandma Sprague’s couch, secretly happy to miss the hard labor involved with such an event. I couldn’t wait to get home and find everything “magically” moved to our new home.

I have no idea why I wasn’t worried about what I might lose. In fact, it took years to really figure it out. Even now I sometimes find myself remembering my childhood and thinking, “I wonder whatever happened to that….” Then I remember. I had never moved before, so I didn’t fully appreciate the steps of packing one’s belongings. After watching my husband weed through my daughter’s toy pile during our own recent move, I am thinking I probably lost more things than I originally thought.

I was never overly sentimental when it came to “stuff.” I had favorites, and the rest were all replaceable as long as the motivation was there. As a kid there was never any motivation, and I had clear hoarder tendencies. Not the collector hoarder, but the garbage hoarder. Anyone who has watched the reality show knows the difference. Of course, I outgrew that behavior and became an adult who must constantly remind myself that clutter is not the end of the world. But back then I lived in fear of the Saturday mornings when my parents would decide that I should stay in my room until it was clean.

I also hated yard work day, and anything that involved stacking firewood.

When I did clean my room, I had little trouble tossing things in the garbage. It was just easier. I can remember one particular Saturday when I spent most of my morning sobbing over the trash pile I had accumulated in my closet. By noon I had accomplished nothing, and my mother gave me the typical threatening ultimatum of getting my butt to work or else she would come in and throw everything away.

Much to her surprise I took her literally, and my mom spent that afternoon cleaning my room while I played outside. With no other ideas for punishment, she simply insisted that I not be allowed to come inside during the process. Whatever. She underestimated my lack of sentimentality; and my knowledge that she probably wouldn’t throw anything real important away. I’m not sure how many childhood mementos were lost in this second siege, but it was worth it.

My daughter didn’t know we were moving. I tried to explain it a thousand different ways, but the only thing that worked was watching it happen. Even then it took a few days. When we started moving our things into the new house, she sat in her car seat in the living room and cried to go home. She kept pulling me to put my hand on the seat- “want….bye bye….home.” It was horrible. But by evening she seemed okay with it. We set up her new room and unpacked her toys, and most of her anxiety disappeared. After a few trips that led us back to this new place we kept calling “home” she actually seems happy with the change. It was easier than I thought it would be.

There have been no meltdowns over missing toys. Yet. She does seem disappointed that there isn’t a little hole in the living room floor anymore that leads to the basement. Throwing toys down that hole was a favorite game of hers. She has requested it a few times, and has made more than one escape to the basement in search of the other side.

Unlike me at her age, Teghan needs everything in its place. She has figured out how to apply her rituals to her new surroundings, and her OCD ensures that everything will return to its proper home and facing in the correct direction. Not that messes are avoided; in fact, they are thrilling to her. She just prefers her chaos to involve things like food and shredded paper (or blinds). And not in secret places like her closet.

So far, so good. Until school starts. We’re going to take the changes one step at a time, because how else would we do it? I suppose for years she will wonder about the places and things she left behind her. We all do, from time to time. It’s just a part of moving forward.


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