“This is for you, Daddy,” says The Animal, handing me a piece of paper featuring his latest work of art—a blue-headed monster/demon, with a yellow body and orange arms, and which is surrounded by 19 stamped monkeys and two (what I assume are) stars. If anyone else had handed this to me, I’d have crumpled it up and tossed it (and most likely suggested mental help). But since it’s my son’s creation, I hang it on the fridge for a couple weeks before dating it and then putting it in a box in the basement. It’s just what I do.
When you’re a parent, as soon as your kid is old enough to put crayon to paper, you earn the title of Official Childhood Archivist. Suddenly you find yourself saving all of your child’s indecipherable doodles and scribbles as if he or she was a miniature Rembrandt. Nonsensical blobs, preposterous portraits, and other pieces of Crayola crap, that normally you’d toss in the trash, are instead dated and displayed on your refrigerator for a while before being preserved for posterity.
When I was a kid, I was always doodling something: spaceships…dinosaurs…spaceships attacking dinosaurs, etc. Most of the time I did this while in school, where I was bored out of my gourd. Luckily my mother had the foresight to preserve these works of art so that I am able to enjoy them today. Just think, without her tireless efforts, future generations would have been robbed of things like this:
I like to joke with my mother that she’s a hoarder. Of course, I know that’s not true. I mean, she doesn’t have a single cat. That said, I’m so grateful that she held onto these early pieces of my creative development. It’s so cool to be able to see things that I drew oh-so-many years ago, long before the weight of the world fell upon me, crushing my spirit and extinguishing my once vivid imagination. One day, when my kids become adults and, like me, lose their enthusiasm for life, I’d like them to have something they can pull out of that box in the attic and say, “What the hell is this?”
Boogieface tends to draw things like fairies, butterflies, and flowers. The Animal focuses on three main categories: monsters, robots and anything Star Wars. Hers are usually sweet and pretty (see Exhibit A). His can be violent and sometimes downright frightening (see Exhibit B). Hers might actually be worth something one day when she becomes a famous artist. His most likely will be studied by psychiatric specialists and members of law enforcement.
Of course, as my kids have gotten older, I’ve become more discerning about what to keep and what to toss. When my daughter was younger, we’d keep every single piece of cra…I mean art that she created. But I soon learned that if we kept up this exhaustive process, we’d quickly run out of space in the Archives, a.k.a., the basement. Therefore I’ve become a little more selective about what we to save. Picture of an X-Wing Fighter attacking an army of aliens? Keep. That cookie-cutter, paper-hand turkey they made at school? Toss.
When it comes to being an archivist, you have to be able to make the tough decisions.
And childhood archiving doesn’t end with their hand-drawn art. It also includes the thousands upon thousands of blurry, digital photos you take of them at their Christmas pageants, on vacation, in the living room, etc., which then clog up your hard drive; those old shoes and pieces of clothing you just can’t bear to throw away, even though they smell like garbage; and those former-favorite toys that you’d thought they’d play with forever until their next favorite toy came along. It’s time-consuming. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. But trust me, one day they’ll appreciate it.
Then it will be up to them to figure out where to store all that crap. ~
Copyright © 2015 Valentine J. Brkich