They were contained within a mountainous heap of boxes, storage bins, and garbage bags in the corner of our damp, musty basement. Countless cardboard boxes of photographs, detailing moments from the first day of Kindergarten with my Pocahontas backpack to the trips to the Jersey shore with my flowered bikini and tongue sticking out on the deck of the boat. Garbage bags of artwork from third grade, and worksheets on how to tell time, and stories illustrated with stick figures later laminated by attentive teachers. Stacked up board games, and containers of Barbie dolls, and every original Polly Pocket and My Little Pony. My first pair of rollerblades, the pink and purple pair from Fisher Price, and my first bike helmet, white with glow-in-the-dark stickers. Diaries with my childish handwriting, one with an entry that read, “Dear Diary: Tonight I’m going on a date. Bye!”
My childhood was packed into this corner. And it was time to go through it.
To dust off the cobwebs and chase away the spiders. To sift through each piece of paper and every accessory that Barbie could have possibly fit into her hot pink dream house and red convertible. To clear out some space and make room for new things.
And I never thought it would be so hard. That all the memories would come flooding back so suddenly. That I would stop dead over a box of photos while remembering the brown shag carpet in our living room, the classic rock station my parents used to play, and how I knew all the words to “I Can’t Dance” by Genesis when I was three. That I would stumble over the ballerina costumes I used to don and dance in, find the VCR rewinder that held every Disney classic I ever loved, cross paths once again with the endless amounts of Arthur the Aardvark books that my mother used to read to me.
How could I bear to part with these objects, the ones that brought me so much joy at those young ages and were bringing me endless nostalgia now, at the cusp of turning 23? How could I bear to line up all these precious items on tables at a flea market and haggle with strangers over their now diminished monetary worth before laying eyes on them for the last time?
But that’s exactly what I did. And it was an entire day full of relaying stories to people I had never met before. And watching little girls eyes light up when they found a pretty doll still lingering in my inventory. And making space for the new while reliving the old.
Because you never outgrow your childhood. And your heart always holds on to your memories. And while the toys you used to play with may eventually be sold at a yard sale, you’ll never forget the moments that were attached to them. You’ll never forget that your stuffed Big Bird was your best friend who kept all your secrets and that your elephant nightlight kept the monsters in your closet away. Because at the end of the day, you’ll always be a little bit of that same child inside.