I sat in my office recently talking to a couple of twenty-something guys about life insurance. Neither of them were dads, but I noticed one was staring at the hand-painted artwork of my daughter Maddie, that rests proudly at the front of my desk. Insurance talk came to a brief halt, “That’s about the neatest thing I’ve ever seen”.
I quickly answered that it was my most prized possession, a Father’s Day gift. It’s taken me a few days to understand why I hold it so dear. Other than the obvious reasons, I thinks it’s this; it shows that for our shared experiences, her perception matches mine. The spirit of her memories is perfectly in line with mine in her artwork.
In a wild life of hectic schedules, we found quiet times together. She always knew where her dad was. She always had someone to lean on.
I don’t think I’m a hoarder, but I do tend to intercept a lot of thing that are bound for the garbage or the yard sale. Maybe it’s just a matter of awareness of the value of looking ahead because I know the treasure that lies in looking back. Possessions that have no monetary value become treasures for those who can look back together at shared experiences of earlier times. Often a single object does the trick.
It’s become a Thanksgiving tradition for my brother, sister, and I to rummage through our dad’s basement and attic for worthless things that bring back priceless memories. A Happy Days board game. A slew of ticket stubs from concerts or sporting events. A little league baseball hat and a 40 year-old baseball glove. Treasures that remind me how thankful I am for my family and for childhood memories.
In a home with four children, sometimes the purges are great. It seems that you can fill a 32-gallon garbage bag with Happy Meal toys at least twice a year. Sometimes items go away that parents wish they’d kept…….or someday they will wish they kept them. There was a coat that both of our girls had worn as toddlers that I spent a few years thinking had gotten away from us. I had a silent celebration when I discovered the Pooh coat buried in the bottom of a storage tub. “Get your Pooh coat on sis”. It has meaning for me now. Someday it may have meaning for the girls as well. Maybe they’ll dig it out together some Thanksgiving after dinner…….as adults……after they’re married. And they’ll give thanks for the childhood they spent together. And I’ll give thanks once again for the time I spent being the daddy of two little girls.
They’re not so little any more. Macy is a college graduate, living 4 hours away, and getting married in September. Maddie just completed her first year of college, but is thankfully home to spend the summer with us (as much as a college student spends the summer with their parents). The start date of her summer job was pushed back for a week, so she decided to have a yard sale last week. Mostly things that belonged to her and Macy. I showed up to help her set things up early on a Saturday morning. As I was digging through the tubs and boxes, placing items strategically so they could be seen, I hesitated when I pulled out a pair of well-worn soccer shoes with a $.50 price tag on them.
I silently walked to my truck and placed them in the front seat. Maddie looked up from her work, “You decide to keep those?”
Maddie probably didn’t know why. They were her sister’s shoe’s. I didn’t know myself. Macy had put together a pretty successful soccer career. A player on our school’s first regional championship team to go along with some notable individual accomplishments. Two years of soccer in college. But I honestly couldn’t even begin to remember what season she wore them in. And she may not remember herself.
But I remember well the night she picked them out.
And as the days count down to her wedding day, I wonder if she remembers too. For a dad that really knew little about soccer (other than learning just enough to be a youth soccer coach) and little about soccer shoes, I placed myself firmly in the middle of the annual soccer shoe buying process. Our girls generally wore their shoes out by playing in both the fall and spring. Sometimes I had to insist that they replace worn out shoes.
“Daddy, I think these will be alright”.
So the tradition became that dad combed the internet for shoes that were acceptable for his girls to play in each season. Time after time, I’d call one of them to the arm of my recliner, “What do you think about these, sis?”. As they got older, they came to my recliner, iPad in hand, “Dad, what do you think about these?”. And the dad who hated to overspend on fancy things or pay too much for shoes or clothes that would soon be outgrown always made an exception when it came to soccer shoes. I don’t think the girls really grasped just how little I understood the game of soccer. But I think they did come to understand that their dad thought it was important for his girls to play in quality shoes.
“Are you sure those are the ones you want, sis?”.
“Yeah daddy, I’m sure”.
So I’ll store the shoes away in a tub with other treasures. Other memories. Someday they’ll come back out. Maybe on a Thanksgiving afternoon, Macy will dig them out with her brothers and sister. And maybe she’ll tell her own kids that she was a pretty fair soccer player in her day. And it may not be worth mentioning to her kids, but I have a feeling that she, and her sister too, will have fond memories of picking out soccer shoes with their dad.
I’m glad I saved the shoes. But they’re just shoes. The real treasure lies in shared memories. And sometimes saving an item here and there helps to keep precious memories alive.
And somewhere in my house is a Thomas the Tank engine wooden roundhouse that would fetch about $50 on eBay. I was thinking about selling it. But both of our boys spent hours playing with it. I guess I’ll hang on to that too.