Amongst the pile of Easter and Christmas decorations I find them -three navy blue tubs filled to the brim. The tubs were tagged with a hastily scribbled label: Kelli’s Memorabilia. Up until this point, I was a cleaning machine. After unwrapping Christmas a few days before, I had the sudden urge to start organizing my basement for the first time since we had moved in our home three years ago. I called it the “Dumping Ground” or the “Land of the Unwanted” because everything ended up down there. It was where my good intentions went to be covered in dust amongst my unfinished crafts and half painted furniture. Broken toy? Put it in the basement! Stack of magazines I haven’t had a chance to read and probably never will? Throw it downstairs! With back to back pregnancies, I had no desire to spend any sanity or free time that I had remaining in the poorly lit dust riddled basement. Now that my youngest was two, I had dreams only a mother would daydream: Moving the mountain of toys from the area formally known as my living room into a beautifully organized basement playroom. Fueled by the desire for the betterment of the new year, this cleaning machine took no prisoners. The donation pile was growing larger by the minute. If it wasn’t useful and/or I didn’t love it, it went into the Hefty bag for donation.
I open the navy blue tubs and roll my eyes at the overflowing junk that I had deemed memorabilia. This was going to be easy.
I had barely glanced inside when my mom had given me these boxes years ago. After a failed attempt to try to give them back to her, I reluctantly put them in my basement to collect dust. These boxes held 18 years of my life.
I grab a few of the old glass trinkets laying on top and roll them around in my hand trying to remember why I had loved them so much. Most of them had lost an arm, leg, or nose from neglectful handling in the move. I discover a box full of notes from junior high still folded perfectly as if I had only received them yesterday and not 15+ years ago. I can see the colorful Gelly Roll ink bleeding through to the outside, I am too embarrassed to open them. There are stacks of pictures from prom on top, memorabilia from summer trips to Cedar Point, ticket stubs to every movie I had probably seen from 7-12 grade, a disposable camera that was only halfway used up, and a whole pile of senior pictures belonging to faces I had not seen or thought of in years. Underneath there is a mason jar holding a dried flower corsage from homecoming, an embroidered blanket from French club, and a little box I had won from the school fair containing all the Susan B. Anthony coins the tooth fairy had given me. Inside another, there was my old baby blanket, though riddled with holes, had endured 18 years of adventure.
I carefully remove the glass dolls one by one combing down their hair remembering how they adorned my dresser growing up. I try to remember which one my grandpa bought me for Christmas. I then find all my elementary school yearbooks and laugh when I see the hearts scribbled around the boys I thought were cute. CDs that I listened to on repeat while trying to learn the lyrics when I was supposed to be cleaning my room were covered over my old raggedy once beloved stuffed animals.
I find my varsity jacket at the bottom. I put it on and just sit.
I close my eyes and I try to remember what it felt like to be the girl in these boxes. The one that could grab a softball and knew exactly where to put her fingers in order to throw the perfect pitch. The girl who would race home after school to turn on TRL so she didn’t miss the new *NSYNC video, who would wear the butterfly clips in her hair, and who plastered her walls with JTT. I try and remember the excitement of the summers spent at the baseball fields surviving on Air Heads and Cow Tails from the concession stand, playing hide and go seek amongst the lightning bugs, and taking refuge from the summer heat in my best friend’s above ground pool. I yearn to remember the slumber parties spent playing Dream Phone and mimicking Cher in Clueless. Watching TGIF on Friday and cartoons on Saturday. I want to remember the girl who could proudly recite the name of every Beanie Baby in her collection and eagerly awaited the arrival of the new JCPenny Christmas catalog so she could make her list for Santa.
These memories don’t feel like my own, but rather a movie I had watched long ago or a book I had once read.
Sometimes when I sit and think too long about a memory it no longer feels real, did that really happen or was that all a dream? I just wish I could go back and experience it again knowing it wouldn’t last. To relive those lazy summer days and relish in it. To sit and talk to the family members that are no longer here. Just for one day, I wish I could go back. I want to feel that innocence and excitement about the world that only a child can feel. Time just felt slower back then. And man, what I wouldn’t give to get back on that volleyball court or softball field just one more time. We are so eager to grow up but no one tells you can’t go back.
I just want to remember being that girl.
I run my fingers over the old birthday cards and trace the signatures of my relatives. I open the 50-gallon tub shoved full of every sport, drama, and speech and debate shirt I have ever owned. I shake my head at some of the ripped, stained, and cutoff shirts that I have deemed savable. I just can’t do it. I push the hefty bag away. I’m just not ready to give that girl up just yet. I know that these shirts, trinkets, and pictures don’t hold the physical memory of this former life but I just can’t do it. Although the grown-up me may view this stuff as junk, I can’t bear to get rid of the girl’s favorite stuffed animal or blanket, even if they are falling apart and worn. I close the tub and push it back to where I found it. Maybe the next time. I’m not sure I will ever be ready. I grab my phone and change the Pandora station. I’m suddenly in the mood for 90s music.