My son started college last week. For the past month, there has been a steadily growing pile of belongings in our dining room. Cardboard boxes filled with sheets and towels, clothes, and books were stacked next to piles of shoes and bicycle tools, backpacking gear and lacrosse sticks.
We warned Tyler that there was no way all of that would fit in the dorm room he is sharing with two other freshman boys, but he remained as stubborn as we’ve come to expect over the last eighteen years, and we finally gave up, knowing we could bring home whatever didn’t work out. It’s one of the advantages of sending him to college only an hour away.
In the final days, some odd things were added to the top of the pile. Things you might not expect to find in a young man’s belongings.
There was the venus fly trap he’s been nurturing with care. Tyler prowls the yard at dusk, catching flies to feed his prized houseplant.
There was a nest of cables and electronic parts dating back, I swear, to his very first Gameboy, the one he got when he was six or so. None of these parts are required for any of his current electronics, I’m pretty sure.
There was a photo of the cat we had when he was little, who ran away when he eight. A clay whistle he made in grade school. The Pink Floyd coffee mug from a favorite concert. South Park figurines.
I’m under no illusions that any of this will make him a better student. But if it makes him a happier student…well, then I hope he found a place for all of it.
We learn what’s important when we move. Having downsized dramatically a couple of years ago, I remember well the pain of parting with things. In Tyler’s case, he knows I won’t throw anything out; it will be here in his room for him when he returns. I had to pack many boxes of books and mementos to send away to charity, with no hope of seeing them again. Once I got over the initial pain of loss, it hasn’t been so bad. Rarely do I miss any of it.
But I, too, made some unexpected choices when deciding what to keep.
Above my desk is a hutch with open compartments in which one might have stacked diskettes, back in the day. Instead, I’ve filled them with my strange little comfort objects. When I’m stuck on a story – every week, for sure, if not every day – I gaze around my office and see them, and I smile.
There’s a travel Etch-a-Sketch on which Tyler wrote “I Love You” many years ago. (I hand carried that one from the old house, careful not to shake it even a little.)
There is a pair of plastic penguins, toys from kids’ meals at Kentucky Fried Chicken, which I’m convinced bring me inspiration. When was the last time either of my children were satisfied with kid-size portions? I don’t remember.
There is a little vase my brother and his wife gave me on a birthday that landed in a difficult year. It’s never held flowers. It’s too pretty to use, swirled with chocolate brown glaze, but when I look at it I feel the love of my family.
There is a photo of me at sixteen, with my cello, looking incredibly geeky. And incredibly optimistic about the future. I like that photo.
There are the cards from friends, maybe a dozen of them. Eventually I’ll tuck them into a Tupperware box I keep for that purpose, to make room for more. Because my dear friends keep sending them, to mark celebrations or give me a boost when I’m down.
These are the objects I kept. None are worth much, perhaps, in terms of monetary value, but to me they are priceless.
It didn’t escape me that Tyler waited until the day before departure to put his own comfort objects on the pile. He’s new at this uprooting thing, after all. Maybe he thought he didn’t need them. Maybe he thought he was too old, too mature, too something. At the last minute, luckily, he changed his mind.
Do you have your own comforts strewn around your private spaces? What’s on your desk? What do you hold dear? Share, if you care to. I’ll raffle a $15 Amazon certificate to a random commenter.