Sunday, May 22, 2011


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.


  1. This is giving me palpitations! OMG, I am trying to imagine my boys with a "thing" for someone and also being all grown up and full of testosterone. I love your calm. I am feeding off of it because I shed a tear last week when my son finished kindergarten. Kindergarten.

    P.S. We love going to all parts of the west indies and hands down still loved the people of St. Lucia the most. We originally thought Bajans were our favorites--until we went to Santa Lucia. Gasp! Whenever we get on the subject, my husband first raves about the Pitons and the fun but in the end always returns to the people. The people there are so amazing. . . . so lovely the people.

    Hope to get back soon. . . . hmm. Maybe Antigua next. We've not been there. :)

  2. He is de-cluttering? I love that kid!
    And what you doing telling him to keep stuff? Bad Momma, Bad!
    And I agree with gradydoctor. I can't imagine my boys having a "thing".
    Your Friend, m.

  3. Ah- whatever it takes to make us let go.
    The fact that your kids keep their friendships so long says so much about the love in your house.

  4. I find it awe-inspiring that you have a SON who would actually de-clutter on his own. Remarkable! :)

  5. He cleans, de-clutter and somehow gets people to help him? Well, he is bound to be a great leader of sorts! And I, like Ms. Moon, find yout kids's lasting friendships very telling of who they are, and the fact that those kids love your house, also very good 'proof' that yes, you are a good parent! I hope he has the best time in England! If he ever wanted to go to France, Paris or the south, let me know, I could put him in touch with good friends to 'look out' for him. Have a wonderful day!

  6. Oh, Angella! This is the funniest line!! "You see, Mom, this is why my room looks like this. You have to let it go!" HA!! Too funny!!
    Wonderful post, as always!!
    Sending love your way, my fiend ~

  7. Good for him! Purging old stuff is always such a renewing process! :)

  8. Gradydoctor, Antigua is beautiful. Let me know if you plan to go and I can tell you about some places.

    Mark, just you wait. the "thing" is coming sooner than you think!

    Ms. Moon, I am fascinated by both their capacities to make and keep friends. If I were a kid, I would love to be their friend, tho. They're both loyal and funny and silly and know how to laugh, like their dad. I credit him.

    Elizabeth, either he cottoned on to the idea that if he cleared his clutter his mom would redecorate his room, OR he wants it to be nice for his guest who is returning from England with him. Not sure which has primacy. Hmmm

    Miss A, forget about him. I want to go to Paris and the South of France. This is my dream! Thank you for the kind comment.

    Gabriele, you should have seen us tugging the huge poster boards back and forth! It was NOT elegant.

    Steve, I agree. If you believe in fung shui, it means his life is about to become freer, looser, less hampered and constrained. I like the idea of that!

  9. You live a pretty busy exciting life don't you? this is awesome. I love the details, I would save things too but I live with a thrower-outter. I hope your son has a good time in London - and now you've got me curious:
    does bacteria grow on soap???

    be well angel

  10. Good for him, and good for you for letting him clear things out. I so love the posts about your family, please keep us updated on whether or not there is a "thing" being had :)

  11. Dierdre, decluttering certainly has its excitements, though I think Paris might be better!

    ellen, i tread a fine line when it comes to my kids' private lives, and i do ask their permission when i put my toe on the line, but i will see if he minds my updating.

  12. Oh, of course! I don't mean to be intrusive. Well, you know that. :)

  13. ellen, i do know that. and even if i couldn't post it here, i would email you. lol