Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Take Your Toys To College (Or wherever it is you're going).

Finally moving out of my parents' house was one of the most emotionally-charged moments in my life. My move (across the Pacific to the other side of the world), involved a lot of tears, drama and considerable sadness. Even now, when I look back on those last few days, those unreal moments when you knew that the change was upon you, and that nothing was ever going to be the same; the memories repeat in my head in just the same melodramatic script. It was not a college move, one in which I could just come back on some random weekend, or on the major holidays. If I got into deep trouble, ran out of money or just missed the hell out of my family, it was not as if I could hop on a bus or a plane and go home. It was the final move, I was never coming back to live there again, and since I was moving nearly halfway across the globe, there would never be any of those impromptu things like a lunch here and there, or stopping by for dinner. 

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My sister was to immediately take over my bedroom as soon as I was gone. I had brought nearly everything with me except for the furniture. I filled my suitcases with every little thing that I possessed, cassette tapes, books, stuffed animals, everything. The room looked pretty sad once I was done, as all rooms and houses do before a move when everything is packed away. It's funny how the life and soul of its inhabitant is attached to the things we use to fill a room; my dad refused to enter it on those last few days because it was just too dreadfully sad. He asked me why I had to bring everything, and I didn't have a logical answer. Half of the things I brought I was never going to use again, but back then I felt like I just had to. Maybe it helped my resolve; bringing everything brought the move a finality, a complete break. Or maybe I had to bring everything that would fit in my suitcase, because everything else that really mattered--my family, and all my closest friends--I had to leave behind.

Well, it was not all sad. It was terribly romantic too, because I flew across the seas to be with the guy I loved. Also, it was not like I never saw them again. To this day, hardly a year goes by when one of them does not come to visit, or when my husband and I bring the kids there to visit. About all the 'stuff' I brought with me, it did not take me long to shed most of them, maybe because in America the first thing you discover is how easy it is to buy 'new stuff', or maybe simply because I did not need them anymore, in an emotional sort of way. The few things I chose to keep though, acquire more meaning as the years go by. Every time I pick it up, or use it, it's like an instant psychic connection to that other part of my life, to 'long ago.' It's like looking at old photographs, or chatting with my brother or my mom about times gone by. 

My son and my daughter each have a stuffed animal that they take with them wherever they go. Those toys have been wherever my kids have been. If it's just a long drive somewhere, they sit in the car. If we have to spend the night somewhere, or go on vacation, they come too. They are real-life 'Velveteen Rabbits.' My daughter's stuffed rabbit, which she calls 'Bunny' is so love-worn. Her fur is flat and matted, her button eyes long gone. Her ears are limp and her once-white face is gray. I asked my daughter once if she would consider giving it to me when she moves out, and she flat-out said, "No!" I asked her and my son if they were taking them if they had to live in a dorm for college, and as expected they said, "Yes."

Last week we saw Toy Story 3, the sequel where the main character, Andy, goes off to college. His room is emptied (to be taken over by his little sister); clothes and toys are either donated or sent off to the attic. His famous toys, Woody and Buzz Lightyear, reflect on the impending change, and devise ways to avoid being donated to charity. Andy was grown and didn't need them anymore. He was moving on to the new and bigger adventures of college life, where childhood toys and imagination did not have a place. The movie was filled with precious and funny moments, but most of all (to me at least), many wistful ones. For the most part, I thought the movie is about that time when the props and vestiges of another life are no longer needed and therefore shed. That time when one has to take stock of the 'stuff' and decide which ones to discard and which ones to keep.

One part of the movie that I could never figure out though is why Andy's mom had to totally empty his room out (aside from the fact that his little sister wanted to take over it). Maybe it's just my age, or my children's age, but I kept wondering, "Was he never going to come visit?" What about Thanksgiving and Christmas? Hmmm. I don't know yet what I'm going to do when that time comes for me, but for now I can see myself keeping my kids' room pretty much the same even after they leave, like a shrine to their childhood that I can visit whenever I miss them. When they are off and gone conquering the world, and I am old, I can just take a peek, or even go back inside and take myself back to that time, when they were little and so easy to take into my arms.

College. My son is going to junior high in the fall and so that train is coming fast. Then it will be my daughter's turn, and from there I hear that it just goes by so fast you won't know what hit you. I wonder if I will be ready by then. When they're on their own, I wonder how often they'd visit. Would they be excited or trepidated? I wonder if we've made our home life so that it will be something they'll long to come back to again and again. Just for the heck of it. I wonder if they'll miss their dad and I. The thing about being a parent is you're always steps ahead of your children. So when that time comes, all the excitement and emotion that it brings, you've already felt and relived hundreds of times over. When there's that sort of a good letting-go, it happens because you've done that move yourself, you've been to that place where they're going, and you know, you just know, that somehow just like you, they're gonna be okay.

Next: Off to college? Dorm room style.

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