My daughter is home from college on a long holiday break, and after a stint of rejoicing in the delights of her hometown (visiting favorite restaurants with other college cafeteria-weary freshmen), she has invested herself in a major purge of her childhood bedroom. Managing her stuff in a small dorm room has transformed my hoarding teenager into a super-organized young woman. In digging through the multilayered detritus at the bottom of closets, she rediscovered missing-link moments from her youth, including a dusty box holding trophies from seasons spent in youth rec-league sports.
The find of the day was a duffel bag full of yarn scraps, a reminder of what she calls her “nerdy knitting” stage. Unfinished scarves, misshapen hats, and a crazy quilt project that is just plain too ugly to see the light of day. Except that knitting is no longer geeky! We’ve recently delighted in the urban antics of Yarn Bombers — check out this Pinterest link of incredible images, or this Google Image link of some gorgeous examples. Now, there is some healthy, and beautiful, re-purposing. Once she handled the closets (packing up a few hefty boxes of tees and skirts for her younger cousins), she set her sight on the bookcase, chucking all the Harry Potters, the dog-eared and seriously marked-up classics from high school English, and the Dan Brown and Jodi Picoult tomes into the hall. She hasn’t given up reading the way she did knitting, it’s just found a new form — she is devouring The Hunger Games books on her iPhone, reading at the doctor’s office and during boring moments of the Golden Globes. As someone whose house is nearly buried in any book I ever read, it seems odd to box up such good friends. It’s not as though I revisit most of the books on my shelf, I just like knowing they’re here. So, off to the library these books will go, to be actively met and loved by a new generation. But I found myself envious of her feather-light lack of sentimentality and wondering why I hold onto so many things from the past.
A worthy sub-title for Mom should be “Thing Manager” (fighting for dominance with Chef, Chaperone and Chauffeur, of course). How much of our time is spent sorting and returning items to their proper place?! As I can see with my older kids, childhood habits turn into hobbies when kids grow up – they mutate into new forms, ones of the child’s choosing. I believe the habit of playing sports turns into a collegiate trips to the gym, and a love for hand crafts can morph into any type of DIY project (she’s beading necklaces now, instead of knitting). So, those are gifts we have given her, habits she will have forever – part of who she is. I grew up playing sports, but don’t need my Varsity letters to remind me that strong legs make for better tennis games. She recognizes the sea change from teenager to college student and by cleaning out her bedroom, she can attack her second semester with a clearer sense of purpose.
So, we’re letting the physical items go — taking photos of the stuff that we no longer want to store. (We can always look to the pictures if we ever need them as a touchstone). And we have a new project to keep us connected during the long, cold second semester she’s headed back east to tackle. We’ve started an online pin board on Pinterest* to imagine ways that we can redecorate her now-empty room. After all, she’ll need a new image when she returns in May to start her summer job. Having purged the symbols of childhood, I imagine she’ll want to also loosen those parental curfews and eschew all the questions we’ll ask about where she’s going and who is she seeing. Ah… those topics can wait until summer.
Until then, I’ll start working on that DIY bulletin board and dream about a new linen covered headboard for her bed. And count the moments until she’s back under my roof.
*Caution – if you click over the Pinterest we can’t be responsible for the fact that you may not get up from your chair for several hours!