My son embarked of a major purge of his possessions this week. Since coming home, each day he has immersed himself in the task of divesting himself of homework papers and binders and textbooks dating back to elementary school, clothes he long ago outgrew, broken toys that had amassed themselves under his bed, shoes and games and school dioramas and odds and ends from his growing up life.
I asked him to save all artwork and certificates and diplomas. And of course he did not touch his scores of track and field and soccer trophies and medals and plaques. Nor did he reduce his collection of shot glasses, which he started at the tee-totaling age of 14. I didn't fight it. Now when his friends travel they bring him back the coolest miniature glass they can find, and some of those pieces are real artworks. I argued with him to keep the science projects, large presentation boards representing months of investigation into such self-chosen subjects as "How Do Crystals Grow?" (third grade), "Do Fingerprint Patterns Run in Families?" (fourth grade), "Can Bacteria Grow on Soap?" (fifth grade), "Does Handedness Indicate Brain Hemisphere Dominance for Ear, Eye and Foot?" (seventh grade). In the end I kept only two, persuaded by his, "You see, Mom, this is why my room looks like this. You have to let it go!"
Out went the 30-gallon fish tank, empty of fish for several years now. Out went the listing bookcase and most of the books that crammed its shelves, no doubt holding it upright. Out went the dragon-themed boogie board on which he surfed waves in St. Lucia and Antigua, and the Razor scooter on which he spent a boyhood summer racing down a hill with his friends. He found his ancient Gameboy with the yellow Pokemon cartridge still installed. It worked perfectly. That was a thrill. He took a break of several hours to reengage with all the knitted concentration I remember from when he was a 9-year-old mastering the different levels of Pokemon. He found a diary he had written in on the first day of fourth grade, with the next entry on his first day of high school. He wrote an entry in it and then re-hid it in his room, with the idea that that whenever it surfaces again, he will look back and see who he was, and write a new entry.
When he was done his closet held only his long ago Eagle Scout uniform and little towers of books on the floor. He then convinced his sister and cousin and best childhood friend (who basically lives here when my son is home) to help him launder the explosion of clothing he carted home from school. The four of them dumped the freshly washed clothes out on the living room floor and folded or buttoned and placed them on hangers. When all was done he made neat piles on his bed, packed one suitcase of clothes to last two weeks, and packed the rest in the other two suitcases he brought from college.
Now he is on a plane, headed to England for two weeks to hang out with friends in Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Leamington, Stratford-on-Avon and London. He is traveling with two of his longtime camp buddies, a young lady and a young man to whom he became close when all of them were 11 and 12 years old. When he returns, a friend from last summer, a fellow counselor at the camp he worked at, will be with him. She will spend a week with us, quartered in my son's room, and the plan is for my son to show her around New York. Then we will drive the two of them up to the camp in the woods, where they will once again be counselors together all summer.
I gather these two had a "thing" last summer, and they have kept in touch all year. I don't know where things stand now. They may be just good friends, as he says. Here is what I do know: The first thing my son did with his earnings from last summer was buy his textbooks. The second thing he did was buy the plane ticket he is using tonight. There's also this: Many of his friends have stayed in our home and he has never before betrayed the slightest care about the state of his room. So I wonder about the gusto with which he cleaned this week. And now, I get to redecorate the newly blank canvas while he is away.