The Stuff of Childhood/The Stuff of Motherhood

Maybe it’s because I’m recently back from having spent a week engaged in work of the grown-up variety (so-called, at least; at first I wrote adult variety, which made it sound like I moonlight as an escort, which NOT the case), and in the process of that, I was able to hang out in environments free of childrens’ brightly-colored plastic; or maybe it’s because it’s Chinese New Year, and apparently jettisoning clutter is a traditional New Year’s activity — either way, I spent Saturday morning sifting through the STUFF in Elder Girleen’s room.

Elder Girleen is a bit of a packrat, and being a bit of a packrat myself, I try to stay sympathetic to the sorts of things she chooses to hold onto (especially if they’re rocks and other bits of natural history, though 20+ pieces of identical Georgia gravel eats a worm hole in my brain) and the Husband, who spends less time in the house with the clutter, is philosophically opposed to sneaking “her stuff” out of the house, feeling that 1. it’s dishonest, and 2. how would we like it if somebody bigger than us did that to us?

I’m not saying he hasn’t staked out the moral high ground, but let’s just say Needs must when the Devil drives .

This post could careen off in a few different directions, like

1. What do you do with art projects when your children bring home at least three a day?

2. Ban the Goodie Bag (Or: Why does my Child Have Three Pairs of Plastic, Made-in-China Binoculars, None of Which Can Be Used to See Anything?)

3. How do ANY People with Children Manage to Have Neat Houses?


I spent a hour of my Saturday morning sorting through baskets (Elder Girleen loves baskets, especially when they’re full of random, unrelated objects) that contained:

…a green plastic finger that can be worn on top on one’s own finger, which was bestowed upon Elder Girleen by her preschool teacher three years ago for Halloween…

… a single scrabble tile…

…. a piece of quartz still stained with red dirt…

… a plastic ring shaped like a bat…

… a marble…

… a dream catcher that came in the mail from some reservation-related charity as a “gift” they wanted me to send in money for…

… a single card from a Crazy Eight deck that came from the dollar bin at Target…

… a hot pink doll boot…

… a crumpled piece of paper…

As I did so, what I really found myself thinking was Is there any way to make ART out of all this stuff? Is there some visual artist out there who makes cool and beautiful art from childhood cast-offs? I imagined lovely sinous sculptures dotted here and there with flotsam and jetsam.

It seems such a shame just to throw it away.

Uhhhh…. Bingo.

Last few posts I’ve been thinking about writing, motherhood-variety, particularly blogs that either dance around the experiences therein or plunge right in. Why so many? Why is there now a book on the market that promises to help moms “discover that mothering provides endless material for writing at the same time that writing brings clarity and wisdom to mothering”?

Is it that there’s a desire to craft something beautiful, something that expresses who we really are, from the disparate pieces laying around, pieces that society has often valued about as highly as those three pairs of plastic binoculars?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Maybe the burgeoning Momosphere is in good part an attempt to spin gold from the domestic straw.

I admit it: I put those three pairs of binoculars back into the basket in Elder Girleen’s closet.

1 Comment

  1. I came over here from Bernadette Noll’s blog…

    Very inspiring post…
    A few weeks ago I spent five hours culling what I call ‘filler’ from my daughter’s room and ‘letting it go’, as we euphemize. But your post makes me think of other ideas for those flotsam and jetsom of a child’s experience.

    Maybe filling a large jar with the items to put on display?

    Your art idea was promising. Maybe a glued collage and then a photo of said collage?

    Perhaps an afternoon of deconstructionism. Cutting up old things, melting them under the iron and some vellum paper. Work intensive, but good for a rainy day maybe.

    But I do have a favorite- instilling in my daughter the idea of nature and vacuums… if you create a vacuum for new toys, they will come.

    And my 2 cents to the other comments-
    I keep some of her art in an artist’s portfolio for later ( I choose those that she seems to have spent specific time or inspiration on), I loathe goody bags but see the joy they bring, so I accept them for a while, and the messy part, well, I lament it but I’m not sure I’d be much cleaner without a daughter.

    And, because my post isn’t long enough, I’ll offer something I heard the other day. A “Sunday Basket”. If something is left on the floor to be picked up by Parents, it stays in the basket until Sunday. And if not reclaimed in two weeks, sailed away to different waters. Extreme maybe, but neat.

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