Monday, July 9, 2012

Toss Away Stuff You Don't Need In The End

Yesterday I performed the task that many Jewish moms time immemorial have done once their daughters have gone off to camp:  cleaned out the room.

And I have conflicted feelings about it.
Because I should take the advice of my own mother and sit down with her to organize together.
But I just couldn't wait until August.
I had the time yesterday, so I started seizing the moment.

Let me clarify a few things.  I wrote to my daughter, Concealed Light, who is happily enjoying her 2nd year at camp for the month of July, to inform her that I would be tidying up in her room.   And that was just a reminder.  I told her before she left for camp that I would be cleaning up.   I haven't been able to get in there in recent months even simply to dust, as she insists on leaving her play-school set up with school supplies, dolls, and various other props on the floor, thereby preventing a thorough cleaning job.  I would just be moving things aside and putting like together with like to get rid of all the dust bunnies.

But one thing led to another.
Can I admit here that I was cleaning and organizing in there for 4 hours on Sunday morning?
I got so entrenched that I missed Will Shortz's puzzle on NPR.
And I couldn't just tidy up.
I was putting so much like together with like.
I discovered things she couldn't find and could use at camp.
And then came all the scraps, a dead insect, tiny piles of dried up flowers, bits of yarn.
Time to purge some of it.
Time to scrape off the stuck-on glue stains, markers, mounting tape.
And there was so much stuff, my gut wants to convince myself that she won't notice.

Here are some things I found (and left a bunch behind):

  • Full box of silly bandz (isn't that fad like 2 years too late?)
  • Shredded tissue paper 
  • American Girl self-help spiral notebooks and teeny tiny notes
  • treasure boxes filled with beads, gems, stones, craftable items
  • Pony beads.
  • scraps of fabric.
  • unopened birthday gifts from last summer
  • Mini oragami fortune tellers.
  • Baby clothing she took out of storage (for her dolls).

She will notice.
True to my word, though, I didn't touch the dollhouse.

And, there you have my conflict:  The desire to clean up, and the desire to respect her space and retain her trust.  Just when you start assuming that I violated my daughter's privacy, I must tell you that I didn't go through every drawer.   I replaced personal items after dusting the area underneath them.  I am not the nosy mom.  I am not the controlling mom.  I am not the I wanna-be-best-friends-with-my-daughter-cooler-than-my-own-mother-though-I-love-love-love-my-own-mother mom.

Again, the conflict:  I sortof have some of those qualities.

I hope to remind Concealed Light that she still has tons of stuff and I was only trying to help clear some space (why hold onto sealed-shut nail polish bottles?) and she'll continually get new stuff and there is still purging that needs to happen and let's do that together when you get back from camp.

I remind myself that Other Moms do this on a continuing basis.
Concealed Light is lucky that I don't typically ransack her room.
And remember, this wasn't a ransack.
This is a delicate once-over.
A once-over that generated 5 bags of garbage and 3 bags of paper recycling.

I discovered that Concealed Light is somewhat of a hoarder, but I realize that we have only gone through her stuff together once or twice, so I can't blame her for not learning the skills.  It is my job to do this type of thing with her together, and I feel bad that I haven't been able to find the time yet to do this.

Uh oh, The Wolfman's Brother came in to the room in the afternoon and said, "Mama, it looks like we are moving because there is nothing on the floor."

Yes, it is important to retain the important stuff, but to quote the song "Theme From the Bottom" which is the title of this blog post:

Toss away stuff you don't need in the end, but keep what's important and know who's your friend 

Here are some other things I found and/or accomplished:

  • That laptop that she said wasn't working?  Cable was simply unplugged from side of laptop.
  • 100% cotton nightgown purchased in a fancy boutique store stuck under her dresser drawer, covered in dust bunnies
  • Shira Goodman's* school supply box, filled with useless pencil stubs about 2 inches long
  • nail clipper she misplaced from last year at camp:  It was buried in her overstuffed LeSportsac cosmetic bag.
  • Goo-goned a ton of marker stains of her vintage white formica furniture (translation:  my childhood handmedown) and mounting tape my husband thought would be helpful to use to mount her reading lamp
  • shook out the Pottery Barn braided oval rug.  Discovered a lot of dirt stains.
  • sharpened all of her colored pencils
  • threw away old markers
  • gathered all of her temporary tatoos and Indian "bindi" facial stickers, putting them in a care package to her at camp with instructions to share with her friends at camp.

*name changed to protect privacy

I realize a difference between me and Concealed Light is that she is way more creative than I ever was, and certainly more intelligent than me.  My sister, Reba, also expressed a creative streak from a young age, and her room, too, was often in disarray.  My own childhood room was relatively tidy and I regularly went through my stuff.  I also didn't have as much stuff as C.L.  There were not Dollar Stores,  Five Below or Claire's where we could get fun stuff for cheap.  I treasured my Hello Kitty items, but there was no purchasing knock-offs in Chinatown, so I only had a few very prized Sanrio products.  Concealed Light, however, has access to so much more stuff.  She has a small library compared to her friends, but way more books than I ever owned:  My mom was a staunch library patron.  My sister was always making projects, as is Concealed Light, but I wasn't as much of the creative type.  I treasured my rug hook set that I worked on for years, leaving it always safely at the top of my closet in its plastic Woolworth shoebox.  I had only one or two sketch pads, and prized my smelly markers and Marvy markers that I received from my Manhattan cousins who lived in Lincoln Towers for years.  Concealed Light is constantly making her own books, writing stories, creating doll clothes:  a real independent, original, creative spirit.   

I hope one day if she ever reads this blog post she will say, "Mama, I could have expressed those same thoughts in a very concise manner where your blog readers didn't actually tune out after the 2nd paragraph."  Let this entry serve as a reminder that we can all learn so much from our children.  I know she will be a great writer one day.  She already is great at expressing herself through the written word at the young age of 8.  Her stories are funny, witty, and to the point.  Me?  I always said that I liked doing the research and could improve upon my writing skills.  I am more of the ideas person.  I have a lot of ideas.

With that I leave you the title of this blog entry. 

And if you are so inclined to view the video in its 7 minute entirety, fully check out this incredible light show.  I was at the Atlantic City show the day after (this was a 3 day Phish festival in June).  Chris Kuroda, the band's 5th honorary member and talented light engineer, as they say in Phish parlance, "killed it."

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