My fiancé Kelli and I have a bit of a running joke based on some recent house cleaning experiences. As we’re preparing for our wedding and her moving in with me, we needed to go through a bunch of my old stuff and determine what is worth keeping and what should be tossed out or given away. Naturally many of these items were stored in old boxes, which I hadn’t touched in years.
She found fairly quickly that I was open to getting rid of a lot of things. Old school papers and awards were tossed in a recycle pile, although not before I had to show off my hefty pile of “Student of the Month” honors because I’m pretty much awesome and my nerdiness knows few bounds. But for many of the things I wanted to keep, she asked the same question: “What are we going to do with it? It’s just going to go back in a box in a closet, never to be seen again.”
Since then whenever we stumble across something we don’t know what to do with or where to put, the immediate joke is “this goes in the box!” As we’re planning things for the wedding and purchasing decorative items and such, this has come up countless times. My goal is to not spend too much money on things we can’t repurpose or won’t want to display after the ceremony, because otherwise we end up with boxes of things we feel we can’t get rid of but don’t know what to do with.
These “box” items are a challenge for all of us. We accumulate things throughout our lives that hold meaning but don’t necessarily warrant display. Or we want to hold onto the memory, but the piece offers little more than that. When we stumble across these items we’re forced to confront ourselves, our pasts and our memories and seemingly apply a value to whether or not the item is worth keeping.
The items that presented the greatest struggle for me were the stuffed animals. I know it must shock everyone to know someone as manly as I owns a vast assortment of stuffed animals from childhood (and some from more recent times…). Naturally Kelli saw all these old stuffed animals and told me they had to go.
After I took a few minutes to ponder whether I could truly marry someone so heartless and cruel, I sat down and tried to explain to her the memories these toys held and how important they were to my childhood. Surely I could convince her they needed to stay.
Not so much. As much as I could pour out my heart about how important these were to me as a kid, they simply couldn’t hold that same value to her. They weren’t her toys. When she saw my stuffed bunny she didn’t see a well-loved animal who helped keep me safe at night as a kid. She saw a bunny that should be thrown out because it’s gross from wear.
As much as I’d like to throw my wonderful fiancé under the bus and decry her cruelty, I can’t. Because she was right. Unfortunately for our purposes, so was I. We compromised and set aside most of the stuffed animals to go to Goodwill, while saving a few that held the most meaning to me. And to her disappointment, that included my bunny.
I’m not sure why some pieces of our childhood cling to us so much more than others. I’m not sure why that paricular stuffed animal meant so much to me nearly two decades after I stopped regularly playing with it. But it did. So we kept it with some of the other things in the box for next time, when I’m sure she’ll again plead her case that he has lived a good life and needs to go. Maybe by then I’ll be okay with it, but probably not.
In the past few weeks since that time, we’ve realized a lot of things we’re receiving together will eventually find their way into the box. At that point they’ll be no different from the old trophies, toys and stuffed animals we all have in our closets. We rarely pull them out and look at them, but when we do they remind us of an important part of our past. Somehow we just can’t bring ourselves to throw them out.
Soon I’ll have my chance to return the favor, as we’ll be going through Kelli’s things to prepare for her move into the house. Luckily for her, I’m far kinder and more understanding and would never hold a vindictive grudge over her forcing me to part with my beloved stuffed animals.
But seriously, I’m excited to uncover pieces of her past and learn more about who she was growing up before we knew each other. I’m excited to crack open her boxes and watch her eyes light up as she rediscovers a treasure she loved as a child but forgot about 10 years ago. I’m also curious to see her determine which things still hold value in her heart and which she’s ready to toss out.
Most importantly, though, I’m excited to start our new box together. I can’t wait to fill it with useless items we probably shouldn’t waste the space to keep, just so we can stumble upon them years from now and remember times like this and the early stretch of our life together. At that point we’ll probably throw some things out, but most will make their way back into the box. There they will sit in the back of a closet until another decade passes and we pull them out again.