Wednesday, April 03, 2013


If John should one day become a television star, I'm afraid he'll be best known for repeat appearances on Hoarders: Buried Alive. The stuff that boy collects. Oh my. In truth, I'm beginning to think the entire family has attachment issues when it comes to stuff.

On our first night in D.C., Ainsley clambered into bed with her pink backpack and there unfolded a scene reminiscent of Mary Poppins and her carpet bag. Two no name dollies emerged and then a newborn who answers to Susie and then Raggedy Ann and, finally, Madeline. Plastered to the bottom of the backpack were a  butterfly known as Bixie and a small stuffed pig.

John, meanwhile, brought a nameless blue dragon with a large zippered pocket. It clanked and rattled all through the streets of D.C.. I drew the line when John wanted to bring Dragon into the Library of Congress. I figured Dragon was stuffed with Matchbox Cars, and I didn't fancy having to disgorge the collection for the benefit of the security folks (and I figured the two hundred people waiting in line behind us wouldn't appreciate this either). Besides, I had already frisked a few kids and confiscated all manner of items  -- most notably switchblades belonging to John and Kolbe. 

It doesn't matter that they morph into harmless combs, I informed the boys. Switchblades are not welcome in the Smithsonian.

I try to impress upon these kids of mine that security guards, border patrol agents, the fine folks with TSA, really anyone wearing a uniform and badge, well, they're trained to be suspicious and a sense of humor isn't necessarily in their skill set.

So Dragon was out in the cold.

We returned home and in the hustle and bustle of of unpacking, Kolbe discovered his wallet and cache of change had gone missing. He eventually came to report that he had found his wallet in the collection of treasure John has been accumulating at the foot of his bed.

John's bed.

There sits a broken keyboard, a mahogany box, key chains and cars, fake credit cards and string -- a treasure trove of stuff, a collection that has grown so large, John has begun sleeping on the other end of his bed.

John is now known asTempleton.

Collecting string, and dice and other odd items is all well and good, but your brother's wallet? Not okay. It was time to raid Templeton's lair. Let me tell you, it was a sight to behold. 
I had to laugh when I found this magazine buried among all sorts of random junk:

As I rifled through an astonishing array of booty, my thoughts turned back to Dragon. I found him, unzipped him, and found that the rattling noise came not from a collection of cars, but from approximately $13.73 in coins -- all purloined from brother Kolbe.

The early morning raid led to a full day of deep cleaning  I actually think of it as excavating. I find amazing things when I deep clean. What I found that day was that John -- clearly -- is not the only hoarder in our midst.

Take this:

You and I see a pile of cardboard. But Kolbe? He sees a turret or a guitar or a prop weapon for his next movie. He's a visionary, my boy, a truly creative kid, a child with an inborn desire to build, build, build. I go through his room and seriously wonder about Thomas Edison's mother. Was Thomas forever setting fire to things? Burning holes in her pots and pans? Did Mom fund his inspirations? Did she help him dream big dreams? Did she run to the store late at night to pick up, I don't know, test tubes and filament? Did she wring her hands? Did she mutter about the noise and the smell and the mess? Did she launch into a perpetual novena to Saint Joseph in hopes her son would come to his senses and become a plumber or an accountant?

Tim, I'm happy to report, has a bit of a minimalist streak. Like his mother, he has a bed full of books, but other than that, he doesn't cling to things.

I have my own collections of untouchables -- china I don't use, teapots grown dusty. Clothes, linens, everyday dishes -- I keep these pared down to a bare minimum. Books? Too, too many.

Stuff. We have too much of it. We are forced to take care of it. We attempt to teach our children to respect it.  

"Is there still pirate's treasure," John asked me one day. "Cause I'm going to find some."

I thought of a line from one of my favorite Jimmy Buffet songs:

Yes, I am a pirate, two hundred years too late
The cannons don't thunder, there's nothing to plunder
 I'm an over-forty victim of fate 
Arriving too late, arriving too late 

John can don his eye-patch and shout "Argh!".  If I had a cannon, I'd let him thunder away. But as to the plunder, it's time to learn this doesn't include his brother's loot.


christinelaennec said...

I sympathise. We are sifting through Stuff and even with an older child there is a lot of treasure that we don't want to get rid of - just yet.

Kelly Dolin said...

Christine - I'm glad you aren't on too tight a deadline for packing. It is hard to let it go. It's kind of nostalgic, I bet, to pull out some old things.

I'm attempting to do a slow clean and purge of our huge attics.We have limited storage downstairs, so making the attics more functional will help.