Another school year is upon us: It’s our oldest son’s sixth year in school, our middle son’s fifth, and our youngest’s second. Add it up and that’s 13 years of school—and–just check in our basement if you don’t believe me–13 years of papers.
Lest you think, “Well, 13 years of papers, but not all of them, right?”
I have saved (despite the threat of A & E and the staff of “Hoarders” showing up on my doorstep) every single paper my sons have created in school—every preschool painting, Kindergarten math sheet, second-grade journal.
I type this out and admit it at the risk of sounding absurd. Will I ever look at these again? Will my sons? Will they even care?
But because I can’t answer these questions today, I feel compelled to save it all. Well into my fourth decade, though I am far from fully formed, I know enough about myself to know which of my creations is worth saving and which belong in the recycling bin. I have enough self-knowledge to understand what will mean something to me years from now—or at least enough to make a really good guess.
My sons, at nine, eight, and four, are such works in progress; they encapsulate such unknowns. My oldest has said he wants to be a marine biologist, so should I just save his science papers, his works of art with aquatic themes? My middle son has said he is an artist; so should I just limit the keepers to his best paintings, the ones that show early promise? And my youngest, well, ask anyone who meets him and they’ll tell you he’ll one day be a lawyer. Does this mean I should really hang on to just videos where he pontificates particularly powerfully or to his first report on a Supreme Court Justice?
What if they change their minds—once or a thousand times as is their wont and prerogative? If Oscar becomes a novelist and I chose decades before to recycle one of his early literary efforts, I can’t even surmise how I would feel. If Edgar becomes a famed mathematician, wouldn’t he get a kick out of seeing his second-grade calculations? And if August becomes a potter, he would probably find a place of honor in his studio for his first masterpiece.
And then I think of their future partners, their children—if that’s the path they choose. They would get, I am sure, an undeniable kick out of seeing a glimpse of who they once were, the childhood artifacts of the adult they have come to know and love.
So, because I don’t know who or what they’ll become, with whom they’ll choose to spend their lives, I’m going to have save it all. They’ll go through it later—and probably tease or admonish me for cluttering our basement, complain about the mountains of paper with which they’re forced to contend.
Or, maybe they’ll just shake their heads, already exhausted and bleary-eyed having read the thousands of posts I wrote here for them and perused the tens of thousands of photographs I took, and sigh and then say, “Well, at least she was always consistent.”