Spring Cleaning


“Mom, is that my Harry Potter Halloween costume? From 3rd grade?

My little boy, “G,” was home from school for a few days and storing his suitcase in the guest room closet. I didn’t answer, knowing what was coming.

“I’m teaching a college course next semester: Investments. Not vestmentsinvestments. There’s a dress code, Mom. No purple and silver robes – they’re pretty strict about that at UT,” he grinned.


I didn’t even look at him. I knew exactly what was hanging in that closet. Vampire capes and Spiderman pajamas…pirate swords and magic wands. Please, please, don’t open that box…

“Cool, I forgot about my Harry Potter chess set, action figures – and all those puzzles. Why are you hanging onto this stuff?”

It was a fair question. Why do I hang onto all that stuff?

I’m not a hoarder, just an “empty nester,” one of those people whose lives revolved around kids for 25 years and then suddenly I woke up one day and the bathroom was clean – still clean, after a whole week. My boys had grown up, moved out and moved on in their lives, but apparently I had not. Their books, toys, and games are stashed away in every closet, cupboard and corner of the house, connections to sweet memories of those magical times when they were little and nothing mattered to me but making them smile.

“Yes, memories,” said G, “not portkeys. They won’t bring us back.” Maybe that’s what I didn’t want to think about, that they were never coming back. Of course my boys would come back, my big boys who had somehow grown taller than me and were driving cars, buying furniture, and saving for retirement. Those boys showed up from time to time, but the little guys, the ones I took trick-or-treating in purple robes, and stood in line with at the theater every time a new Harry Potter movie came out, they were never coming back.

“You still have all the books, too,” said G, pulling a copy of The Sorcerer’s Stone from the bookshelf. I had read him a chapter every night, and by The Chamber of Secrets he was reading them to me. We read the final novels on our own, speculated about how Rowling was going to tie up all the loose ends after The Half-Blood Prince, and probably spent an hour on the phone discussing the revelations uncovered in The Deathly Hallows. “I always liked Snape,” I had said, “He was always my favorite.”

I’m boxing everything up this week. There’s a place down the street with kids who would love this stuff – Zach’s Place, it’s called. It used to be La Petite Academy and I used to drop G off there every morning on my way to work. At the bottom of the hill is another place called Goodwill and they have a drive-through. I’m going to find new homes for all this stuff, because it’s too precious to keep to myself anymore. Maybe someday a mom can sit on the floor and do these puzzles with her little guy, or a kid can dress up in purple robes and be a wizard for a while.

I’m keeping the books. They’re not portkeys, and holding onto them won’t transport me to another place or time. But sometimes when I lie in bed at night with a cup of tea and read a chapter to myself, and remember those little boys’ voices in my ear and the wonder in their eyes…sometimes, it’s magic.

This column first appeared in the April 27, 2016 Woodmen Edition of the Gazette Community News.

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