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.
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:
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.
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.