My daughter’s childhood lives in my attic, among totes, garbage bags, and boxes, in a trunk, on hangers and hooks.
She is 32 with an exciting job– I have not thrown out her school papers, awards, ribbons, and trophies, nor the yearly calendars with outlines of growing hands and feet, traced each year.
She is 32 and married — I have kept all fifty Barbie dolls, Bette Ball and Marie Osmond porcelain dolls, a herd of stuffed animals, Halloween costumes (Raggedy Ann my favorite), nine years of dance tutus, a red tricycle, and blue-reined hobby horse.
She is 32 and a dog parent– I hang on to her Hanson magazines and posters (she loved Taylor and cut her hair to look like him), Mr. Rogers’s trolley, various children’s VHS tapes, an assembly of Fisher Price toys, a beautifully illustrated Mother Goose book.
She is 32 with no children (yet) –-I have saved her holiday dresses and coats, a blue and pink hand knitted blanket we swaddled her in on her car ride home from the hospital, her pristine Christening cap and gown, and angel white First Communion dress and chaplet, each carefully wrapped in tissue paper.
She presently doesn’t cherish these items as I do, but as possessor, I will never throw them out. They are kept so we can revisit days, to remind us of a busy and happy childhood. They are kept to remember what steps we have followed along the way, what we cherished and loved: holidays and playdates and the “first of” and “last of” moments– cradling a tiny neck to holding a small hand and finally to letting go.
You loved to play with your cash register, wanting to work at MacDonald’s, so you could talk into the microphone, “May I take your order,” and make change. You repeatedly watched the movie Tom Thumb, always like you were seeing it for the first time. You tickled the ivories on your tiny piano belting out Good Night Yadies as you couldn’t say your L’s yet.
These voices, these images float in my attic; we open a box, touch a cloth, smell the paper, hear the jingle of toys, see the scenes played out in front of us as if we have stepped back to younger years: a rabbit fur muff worn at Christmas Day mass; Popsicle sticks glued on paper to form a house; three-men-in a-tub toy, sturdy and noisy for a toddler to bat around. The energy exceeds the space where all of this childhood is stored. These items burst at the lids, hoping for another companion, another chance for clothes to be worn, toys to be used, dolls and stuffed animals to be fussed over and hugged, as before. And here all that love will stay packaged up in the attic until that day arrives.
Ann Hultberg is a retired high school English teacher and currently a composition instructor at the local university. Her degrees are in English and reading education and educational psychology. She writes nonfiction stories about her family, especially focusing on her father’s escape from Budapest, Hungary, to the United States. Her stories have been accepted by Drunk Monkeys, Persimmon Tree, Fevers of the Mind, and The Story Pub.