Hi. My name is Kathie and I'm a sentimental keeper. I didn't realize how bad my addiction was until I had children. I couldn't part with anything--from hospital bracelets to baby shoes. I accumulated a collection of first curls to first teeth that made my memento box look like it was from a forensic lab. (I did not keep the umbilical stumps. Promise.)
But things really started to get out of control when my kids began to make things--precious artwork and macaroni jewelry and prized school papers. Handmade birthday, Mother's Day, and Valentine's Day masterpieces. I soon realized that I had enough treasures to fill the Smithsonian and if I didn't find a way to part with some of it I was destined to be featured on the show "Hoarders."
And so I became painfully selective about what I kept and what I tossed. But to make sure that everything (and everyone) was adequately cherished, I created a life cycle for these items.
Treasured artwork and prized school papers are first praised at the dinner table. After a sufficient number of "oooos and ahhhhs", the item is posted on the fridge for the family's visual enjoyment. After about a week (or when the refrigerator door begins to fall off its hinges due to the weight), I slowly move these items to a special pile on the kitchen counter. There it stays for a 24 hour period and if the item is not missed it would then be oh so ceremoniously placed into our waste receptacle, hidden under other trash.
On a few occasions, the artist formerly known as prince/princess discovered that his/her masterpiece had somehow jumped from the fridge into the trash. I would gasp in horror, reassure the child that I had no idea how that could have happened, and the item would start its life cycle over (dinner table--oooo and ahhh--fridge--counter--trash) until it safely made it to the great compost pile in the sky. (Fortunately my older two are now okay with the tossing.)
For years our system worked. I had significantly cut back on what was kept until . . . we started this adoption. And suddenly there was a new child and my only contact with him for weeks at a time was the treasures we'd get because we sponsored him. We would dance at the mailbox upon discovering a new letter from Daniel. We all would study his penmanship, delight in his artistic ability, and memorize his letters in both Spanish and English.
One letter came at a time that we felt burdened to pray for his safety. His letter simply said, "How much I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my help, my liberty, He is my God. He is my refuge, He is my shield, the power that saves me."
His most precious letter to us was translated as saying, "I love you lots. I love you more than lots. I love you with all my heart and all of me. When I'm with you, I'm happy. When you go, I cry. I can't wait to come home to the USA." That one was certainly a keeper.
Unfortunately, they all are. And since he's come home, I can't seem to part with anything he has made (and he LOVES to do arts and crafts). I've missed so many years of baby teeth, haircuts, photos, turkeys drawn by tracing his hand, bugs made with thumbprints, Christmas ornaments made from Popsicle sticks. How in the world can I toss anything now? (What makes it harder is that most of the items are made for me with "Mama" proudly written somewhere on them.)
But yesterday I saw one of his drawings on the fridge.
It had had a long and happy life. It featured a foam dinosaur, displayed in a 3-D pop-up style, with little brown balls of paper glued on to look like poop. If you look closely you can see it says "To Mom, From Daniel." I took a deep breath. Yes. I think this is one that I can part with. It must start some time. I moved it to the countertop. I know. I'm a woman of great courage.
Last night as I was tucking him in, we prayed together as we always do. And we always pray for his friends back at the children's home that he lived in the past three years. When we finished, he asked why the other kids lived there at the orphanage. I explained that some were there until their parents could afford to care for them. Some were there because their parents had died. And some where there because their parents had hurt them and they needed to be somewhere safe.
I looked at Daniel and he had his little finger pointing to his chest. I asked, "Was that like you?" He nodded. (We were aware of some of his past but were thinking he had blocked it out because he had never talked about it.) Then he proceeded to explain the abuse from his mother--bits and pieces of words fleshed out with motions. Tears poured down his face . . . and then down mine.
I hugged him tightly saying, "I'm your Mama now. I always have been. It just took me a while to find you." I was crying so much that he eventually started to smile at the sight of his mom boo-hooing all kinds of ugly.
After tucking him in I returned to the kitchen. I saw the artwork sitting on the counter awaiting the trash. I realized that I didn't need it. Now that I can hold him, talk with him, laugh with him, cry with him, the artwork that I truly cherish is being written on my heart. I have a child who has had a lifetime without love, who freely loves me "more than lots." Now that is a masterpiece!
I picked up the creation with the dinosaur with bowel issues and put it . . . back on the fridge. For now, I need to hold onto each moment just a bit longer. For I have always been his Mama, it just took me a little while to find him.
More Than Lots,