Growing up, if ever I made something special, my mother stuck it in her "old lady box." (Insert crass joke). When I was young, the box contained things like unrecognizable penguins made of cotton balls. As I grew up, she stashed away poorly executed still life drawings of fruit and ultimately college essays that touted my folks as the most influential people in my life. If memory serves, the original box was from Lord & Taylor. Now, "the box" is also known as "the basement."
She saved everything.
"You're saving that?" I would judge her as my eyes rolled.
She'd tuck away my research paper on Rogers & Hammerstein musicals and their effect on the post World War II audience or she'd hoard my highlighted script of the painfully abridged high school version of "Romeo & Juliet" and say, "this way, when I'm an old lady, I'll have a box of treasures."
The concept was lost on me. And then, I had children.
Know what's on the top shelf of my closet? Old lady box; The Next Generation.
Now, whenever the pang of guilt hits me ("I can't throw this drawing of .... what is this a drawing of? ... away!") I know just what to do. That mother's day worksheet that came home on Friday that says I'm "sweet as candy and pretty as a butterfly," has a special spot above my sweaters. There is an astronaut made out of tinfoil currently pinned to the bulletin board. That thing's gonna blast off to my closet in 10 - 9 - 8 ...
That box saves the tangible memory of the intangible age. My older son and I have the same size feet now. Our socks get mixed up in the laundry. But buried in my old lady box I have his toddler footprint on construction paper. It's a box of proof. My children were little once. I don't want to stop them from getting older. Watching them develop into themselves is, for me, the very best part of parenthood. However, I don't want to lose sight of where they started. Birthday cards my husband wrote on behalf of their baby selves are precious cargo now, because their baby selves have evolved into children who can write their own cards.
My son came home from school last year with a worksheet that said I AM PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN BECAUSE ... - He had filled in the empty box with a drawing of the American flag on a pole waving in the breeze on a sunny, blue sky day. And on the dotted lines beneath, he had written - "Of the American Fag." That one has premiere real estate in my box.
The buzz of Mother's Day weekend has passed. My new lounge chair was a huge hit and I bought just the right amount of lox for brunch. My parents and grandparents have made their way back to Chicago, the sheets and towels have been washed and folded and put away. On the kitchen counter by the coffee maker, sits a stack of cards. One says in red crayon, "I hope you have the mother's day." I did. I had THE mother's day. And I know just where to put that card.