Spring cleaning, purging or downsizing is tough. It is hard to give away things when we are attached to them. Sometimes, the object we are holding onto is connected to a myriad of memories that bring up different emotions – from happiness, to regret, to hope. It can be difficult to give an item away when it contains so many links to our feelings. However, we have to realize that the item is not our feelings. We are projecting our own thoughts onto the object.
By writing how the memories about the object makes you feel, you will be able to see the item as it is – an object. Then, you may be able to leave that item behind without feeling sad or guilty. Here is a great example from one of my writers in my “Write Stuff – Preserve Your Memories Not Your Stuff” workshop.
He sits on my lap. This vinyl doll with the cute little mouth, puckered so he can take the bottle of magic milk that’ll disappear when he has a “drink.” His wavy brown hair and baby features of brown eyelashes framing blue eyes are stamped onto his skin. He has dimples and rosy cheeks and a tiny pug nose. He is dressed in a shabby old baby T-shirt that has the faded words I’m Somebody Special on the chest. He is sweet and soft and just the right size of a newborn.
He is definitely a “he” – an anatomically correct baby boy. The doll is the quintessential toy for young children to practice future parenting roles. But when the ten and eleven-year boys in the children’s group I ran began making disparaging remarks and drawing over the penis, I removed the doll and brought him home to my own young boys.
As I sit here, holding the doll and making that difficult decision to let go of a small part of my sons’ childhood, one memory grips me. I feel guilt and sadness for the one point in time when I could’ve instilled that feminist value of equal sexes as a mother of boys. I dropped the baby; so’s to speak.
Our smallish dining room table was always an excellent play gym, tent and Matchbox service centre. My eldest son had played with the doll; at first driving it around the underside world he had created below the table. When he was three and a half years, his little brother was born. That was when the doll became my oldest son’s baby.
Once, when I was nursing his brother a few feet away, I saw him holding the doll to his chest just as I was doing. I gave what I thought was a chuckle of joy – my son was showing his feminine side. I was elated!
Not so my son. He gave me a startled look and dropped the doll to his side.
He never played with it again.
Many years later, when I look down at the doll, I feel regret that my ill-timed laughter somehow conveyed a censure of what my son was mimicking. I do know that he was supportive when his wife, my daughter-in-law, breastfed their little ones. I guess he absorbed some of those messages despite my ill-timed gaffe.
My sons never gave the doll a name. To my granddaughter, the doll has always been “Baby” as in, “Nana, you can be the older sister and Baby is your brother.”
Today, holding him in a hug, I whisper goodbye to little Baby. I tell him “it is time to pass you onto another generation. May others teach the lessons of parenting that come with caring for a newborn baby boy. In a gentle, loving way.”