Reduce, reuse, recycle

Illustration by Nancy Ekholm Burkert

Illustration by Nancy Ekholm Burkert

Of late, my mother has been thinning things out.  She occasionally insists that I regain ownership of boxes of nostalgic detritus that have been placidly sitting in my parents' garage for the past 30 years or so. I do not want these things. I also do not NOT want these things. Mostly, I want these things to be sitting undiscovered in my parents' garage, just in case, at some unspecified year in the future, I want to revisit my past. I don't want to do that now. Nor do I want to store these random things in my own garage (who knows how long I'm even likely to HAVE a garage).

To this, I imagine my mother would say, "Exactly."


A recent box seems to have been packed away when I was about 18.  It contained a lot of things I've been doing just fine without:

  • My Eeyore costume from the production of Winnie the Pooh I did my senior year of high school.
  • A rather sizable figurine of Fagin from Oliver Twist.
  • A small pink and green plush turtle
  • A box of little nursery rhyme characters (Miss Muffet and her tuffet and the spider who sat down beside her, etc.)
  • A doll whom I don't remember in a fancy dress
  • Merlin head on a stick?  With ribbons hanging down.  In case you wanted to wave around a Merlin head in a magical/Medieval parade?  I don't know.
  • A dinosaur comically dressed in the uniform of my manager at the toy store where I used to work during the Christmas break from college
  • One hand-made Eeyore
  • One Disney Eeyore
  • A penguin on a wheel sort of thing, with an accompanying stick, so that if you push it along, its flippers flap along the floor
  • A plain white mask of my own face, made in high school
  • And a human-head sized handmade seagull mask

In other words, priceless heirlooms which we should thank God have survived unscathed.

I have enormous difficulty getting rid of things, even demonstrably useless things, if they ever had any sort of sentimental value. Hence my fondness for the "stored forever in my parents' garage" method of historical preservation. I kept that box in the middle of my living room floor for weeks. The fact that I had preserved these things in a box meant that they had once evoked Feelings with a capital F, ergo, I must keep them until I die.  Finally, I convinced myself that perhaps it wouldn't be so very bad to unburden myself of things the sentimental value of which I could not strictly remember.  I threw away the (super creepy) mask of my own face and the Merlin head (I felt bad about it, but it had a broken stick and its parade days were over). I gave the doll and the flippety-flappety penguin to a friend with young daughters. Having removed its Imaginarium uniform, I gave away the dinosaur. Ditto the Disney Eeyore.

That leaves me with the eccentric collection of a Fagin, a turtle, some nursery rhyme characters, an Eeyore costume, an actual Eeyore and, most bafflingly, a seagull mask that I didn't remember AT ALL.

Hold on to the friends of your youth, that's my advice. In case you find a bewildering seagull mask among your possessions, your best friend can tell you that it is from a production of James and the Giant Peach, wherein the peach needs to be rescued from the ocean by a flock of seagulls (not that other Flock of Seagulls you're remembering from the 80s).  Mind you, I was not even in that play, so I still have no idea how I ended up with this mask. But it was such a very good mask, that I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.  I had a vague plan to try to sneak it into the costume closet of the school where I work. Meanwhile, it's been in my kitchen for months, looking up at me when I put the kettle on.

And then: lightbulb!

My brother has a strong nostalgic streak, but is not great at keeping things for decades. And here was I with an artifact from a play that HE was in.  Well, all it took was a box and some paper and we had on our hands a Christmas miracle. He opened the box and was, predictably, delighted.  Hooray!

Of course, when you are presented with a seagull mask, your first instinct is to try it on. (You may not have had this experience personally, but you'll have to trust me.) Well., I don't know whose tiny head that thing was originally modeled on, but it sure wasn't my massive noggin. Or my brother's.

That's when, after a lifetime of trying on disappointingly too-big hats, my mother had her big moment. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Surrealist Christmas.  You're welcome.