I heard the most awful racket coming from the laundry room. Something was clanging around in my new dryer, rocketing around like a roman candle on the Fourth. Now, I have waited my entire adult life for a new dryer, so I frantically rushed to open the shiney front loader door before whatever it was broke through the glass and sent me scurrying back to the laundromat.
Out tumbled a rock. About the size of a half dollar, it was gray and jagged, with tiny flecks of silica.
Oh, my boy. He loves rocks, and he loves to bring the prettiest ones home to me as gifts. He also brings me leaves he finds on his walks, and loves leaves with deep colors or tangled veins running through them. They are often shaped like hearts. I keep them all. The leaves will eventually crumble and turn to dust on my counters, and I will wish that I had paid more attention to seventh grade earth science class. I should press these leaves, identify and date them, keep them in a tidy white notebook. But I don't.
I am not much better with artwork. My babies are great artists, and often gift me with family pictures, self portraits and homages to their dogs. I keep clear tape handy and paper my refrigerator with their work. It makes me proud and it builds their confidence when they see it there. I recently invested in a variety of magnetic frames to up my display game, and even sent a few to the grandparents because the kids love choosing art pieces to send to them, too!
Now, I freely admit to not always being on top of my organizational storage efforts for artwork. There are about a dozen Pinterest projects on the internet for storing and cataloging kidart. The Hubs bought me a scanner so I could make permanent digital copies. And my mentor mom Robin Hall suggested making yearly file folders to keep their best work in, and then storing the folders in a box. But I struggle with these levels of commitment and organization.
I finally decided to use the same method I employ for yearly tax records.
I recycle a large Amazon box and stash it under my desk in the office. Every three months or so, I scoop all the artwork off the walls and fridge and toss it in the box. At the end of the year, I throw leftover school yearbook photos in the box so I will know what year the work was completed in. I tape it up and take it to the attic and place it in an enormous red plastic tub, the kind suitable for holding a large artificial Christmas tree. I have big plans for its contents, and I like to imagine myself presenting them with fabulous memory books when they graduate from high school. But I also know that it is much more likely that at some time, our accountant is going to open a box from me expecting boring receipts but instead will receive 312 pictures of our dogs and some rainbows thrown in for good measure and he will think, “Well, Melanie. You are taking this whole ‘looking for new tax deductions thing’ to a new level!”
I hope he likes surprises as much as I do! Every few years or so, Mama Mary sends me a package from The Hubs’ childhood. I have x-rays from every major injury he endured, his seersucker Easter outfit from 1979, a collection of short stories, preschool drawings, elementary report cards and his academic awards. Did you know, my husband is an Olympian of the Mind? Google it, he is a smarty pants and now I have the paper to prove it!
But only because Momma Mary had the right perspective about what is worth keeping.
This summer, my precious 5-year-old neighbor came over for dinner. He brought me a bouquet of little yellow wildflowers he I found in his yard, freshly plucked with long, dirt-covered roots. I thanked him for being such a gentleman. I immediately found a wine glass vase and put them at the center of the table.
His dad smiled when he saw the display and ducked his head a little. He laughed, admitting that these little gifts often get thrown away at his house.
And I get it. Rocks, flowers and children's artwork can completely overwhelm a home. Some people have mid-century modern decor, some traditional. My house is decorated in early childhood!
Have you met me sweet friend Leslie "Sugar" Parks? She is a cancer survivor, shoe lover, Donny Osmond superfan and a bariatric warrior.
She posted a beautiful picture of the flowers her grandson brought her last summer, a lovely cut glass vase full of sprouted bermuda grass! She wanted a vase befitting such a treasure, and I complimented her choice.
She told me that showing those flowers off was one way she showed her "grandgift" she appreciated him and that she would always be his biggest cheerleader.
Mamas and daddies, our children need that. Our children need to know that they are important and loved. Sure, we may tell them that, but do our deeds? Name-brand clothes and the latest iPhone may be great gifts, but material goods don't provide kids with a sense of security or a sense of being valued. Only our actions can do that.
Are the gifts from a child trash or are they treasure? Whether you see weeds -- or flowers -- is all in your perspective. I choose to see flowers.
I turned the rock in my hands a few times, watching it catch the light. Then I let it join its brothers and sisters in my beloved rock collection. It lives next to my husband’s black belt award, in the ceramic pinch pots my children make me each year for Mother’s Day.