I would think that most people returning home for a class reunion would spend anywhere from three seconds to weeks examining their life. How could you not? I’m not talking a huge Examination. Is this where I wanted to be? How did I end up here? No, the simpler one. I’m no longer a child & haven’t been one for years. Believe me. This isn't a new realization. I’ve been called, “Mrs.” a few times. It’s hit or miss if someone even cards for the wine I’m buying & most times I think the cashier is just trying to be sweet. I’m realize that I'm no child, but attend a party where everyone is practically screaming, “You’ve been an adult for 15 years!” & that point is hammered home.
That hammering made this trip feel extra Memory Lane-ish. I felt like I didn’t walk into my parents’ home, but I walked into a museum of my youth. Two things before I continue. One, I live 45 minutes from my parents. I go home often, but not for high school reunions that force you to feel old. Two, I’m not so vain as to think the house is a museum to MY youth. It’s my families’ youth. But since I was the only one home experiencing it, my side got the slant. I’ll continue. Every room had an artifact that was dusty with memories. I walked into the kitchen exhibit & found the squatty orange Tupperware container that held baked cookies. Flip it over & you’ll notice a scar from when one of us left it on the stove’s burner. Nestled next to the increasing bottles of prescriptions, I found the simple recipe box. I’ve flipped through that box at least a dozen times searching for the No-Bake Cookie card. I've slammed it shut a dozen times only to whine to my Mom that it wasn’t in there. And she's found it a dozen times.
As I shuffled along to the porch area, I noticed that the curators’ must have felt like it was ok for visitors to play with some of the artifacts. My boys created a community surrounded the Little People toys. A hospital on the left. A school on the right. All leading up to the castle in the cul-de-sac. The little plastic bed was missing the foam because we yanked it out as children. The monkey was missing his rubber foot because it was too easy for one of us to chew off. These missing parts didn't ruin the boys' community. They added some 2010 flavor by lining up the Star War toys on the roof of the castle. Subtract those fighters & about 30 years, you would have seen a similar scene unfold with my siblings. When you leave the porch there’s a small section of glass in the door. It isn't marked with a plaque or a set of ropes, but if you hold your ear close to it, you can actually hear an argument that took place decades ago. My brother was angry with my older sister. He slammed the door & she fell through. Get your ear even closer & hold your breath so you can hear my mother beg us not to move because of the broken glass.
Later that night, I put my boys to sleep in that museum. I let them fall asleep with one of the oldest pieces: a picture that lights up an entire room. When I clumsily twist the switch, the hum & flicker of that light transports me back to my grandparents’ house. It hung over the bed that my sisters’ & I slept in when we visited. Because a Light-Up Picture is rare & precious, my mother took it from her parents’ museum. It now serves the same function that it always has. It ushers little bodies into sleep safely & without worry of the dark.
My mother was thrifty. She had to be with four children. But things weren’t disposed of so easily back then either. You kept your wedding towels even if they didn’t match the new bathroom color. I’m grateful that these objects still reside in my parents’ house. And it gives me more of a reason to keep the things in my house. Not the mountain of toys that seem to magically pile up after repeat trips to Goodwill. But the tiny hill of beloved toys that are dragged out daily. The books with spines that are worn & wrinkled from constant openings. The cookbooks with pages that are splattered from over use. The Batman sheets that are washed & immediately put back on the bed because it’s the only way to sleep. The things that will hopefully remind our children of their own simpler time.