The Box in the Basement

The box in the basement is beginning to overflow.  Papers and colors and scribbles and pictures spill over the top of the box.  I am trying to save it all.

The box contains almost every craft and project my girls have completed at daycare over the past several years.  Yes, I want to save their creations and yes, it will be wonderful to have these mementos from their childhood.  But when I look through that box, I feel a heaviness in my heart.  What I really want to save is the memory  – to remember forever how my girls existed – for a moment – before they grew a little bit older.

I do love the messy sheet of white paper covered in blue finger paint from the winter of 2011.  It is documentation of Maddie’s color recognition and fine motor skills at 11 months of age.  But, more than the paper, I want to remember Maddie – with her curls and diapered butt – Maddie, how she would toddle to the daycare door upon my arrival.  “Ma ma ma ma ma ma”, she would yell.  Maddie and how she learned her colors so quickly and smeared macaroni and cheese all over her face and loved Mickey Mouse and said “Uh oh!” every time something fell on the floor.  My fondest memories of eleven-month-old Maddie.  That’s what I wish to save, to put in a box and keep safe forever.  That Maddie is no longer here, and in her place stands this four-year-old Maddie who is every bit as wonderful and smart and cute and charming as eleven-month-old Maddie.  I just don’t want to forget.  So, I keep stuffing more papers into the box in the basement.

Of course, it will be nice 15 years from now to still have the paper bag scarecrow puppet that Kate made.  It is evidence of the early stages of her learning to color and her recognition of body parts.  However, more than the scarecrow, what I want to hold on to forever is almost-2-years-old Kate.  I don’t want to forget her obsessive love of all things pur-pur (purple) and her determination to do everything by herself and the way she is such a daddy’s girl and the look in her eyes when she watches Maddie and how she’s learning to talk and the way she smiles with her whole face and you just can’t help but feel her joy, too.  I want to remember this Katie, how she exists right now in this moment of time and the love that fills my heart every time I look at her face.  I don’t want to forget.

I’m filling the box in the basement with paper memories because I’m trying to save it all.  Every memory.  Every moment.  Every part of them.


17 thoughts on “The Box in the Basement

  1. I am sitting there with you right now holding those two boxes. I try to imagine what it must feel like to want to hold on to all those memories. All those feelings you have – right now. How you feel when you look at your girls’ faces and how you don’t want to forget. So important. So special.

  2. I have four of these boxes! I think every parent wants to hold on to their children for just a little longer in each different age and stage. I could feel your longing to hold onto these precious memories. I share that longing with you!

  3. Technology makes it easier now to save those moments so you can revisit them over and over. I wish I’d had some of these tools thirty years ago to record my son. I hear the tugging of your heart as you describe these moments.

  4. It’s not the THINGS you want to hold onto but rather the wonderful, magical, moments of their lives. I tried to hold onto just enough “stuff” to jog my memories….but I am finding the memories are jogged by events that may not even seem similar on the surface, as well as the “stuff”!

  5. I’ve had boxes like this…but Elsie is right about using the tools of today to preserve their contents. FYI: they do love returning to this “old work.”

  6. Oh my goodness, my basement is full of “memories.” This is so true: “But when I look through that box, I feel a heaviness in my heart. What I really want to save is the memory.” My husband is constantly hoping I will go to the basement and get rid of some things. Somehow these concrete items take me write to the place where the memories I hold dear live.


  7. What a beautiful, beautiful piece of writing. It made me cry. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy– the moments go way too fast and then you wake up and they are at college…

  8. I was there with you in the basement. It’s so sad how fast children grow up. I see it with my grand girls, oldest will be nine in two weeks. By writing about those memories you are adding one more way to keep them alive.

  9. Dana, I KNOW IT! This drawing Johnny made for me while holding the crayon upside down tightly in his fist – I want to capture that moment in time forever every time I glance at the piece of paper. And the first time Evie wrote an E. The look on her face! The pride! The surprise that she even did it! I want a box for that. I totally agree with you. They grow up too fast. I want to hold on to these memories forever.

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