Saving the tiny treasures

The bright paper sun hangs high on the wall directly across from my wingchair, my nest. It’s where I read the morning paper, my mail, magazines and even an occasional book on a rare quiet evening. I write on my laptop and watch the tube, all from the same spot across from the paper sun that I just realized has been hanging there for over six years.

The sun soars above the painted tin sailor waving his signal flags an old piece of maritime lore like most of the dcor in my small nautical den. But the sun is different from all the other ocean-going memorabilia; from a decorator’s viewpoint, it would be considered a piece of sentimental schlock. It’s made from a paper plate, the bottom randomly covered with snippets of red, orange, and yellow tissue paper. I’m sitting here, looking at it and wondering why it’s still hanging there after all this time. Objectively, it’s pretty cheesy, but I can’t help myself. It was made by a special two and a half year-old during her first pre-school year . . . and I love it. It’s a happy, cheery memory of happy, cheerful times, so I guess it’s not going anywhere.

But isn’t that the problem with all the hand-made treasures like my paper sun? What to do with the stacks of child-crafted cards, and cut-outs of Easter rabbits, turkeys, and angels? The dog-eared, yellowing valentines covered with misshapen hearts promise me love and kisses . . . from my children. Technically updated valentines from the grandchildren sport puffy, sequined messages in between dozens of mini-stickers . . . and promises of love and kisses.

Through the years the phrase “I love you” often wears a backward E. My grandchildren, naturally, reversed their letters during a pre-school or kindergarten project. Since I can’t remember, I’m hoping that my children weren’t in fourth or fifth grade when their E’s, N’s and S’s faced west. Birthday cards proclaiming my advanced age are spelled out clearly on the front, testament to their need for precision. I could do without such exactitude, but they do make me grin.

It was a week after this past Thanksgiving before I went to the upstairs study where Keira, The Princess of Boston, sleeps on a convertible sofa. As I began the clean-up I noticed some scattered lumps on the desk. A closer look stopped me cold. She had used her box of molding clay to create a rainbow-colored rope that was then shaped into letters spelling out “I love you Go-Go” . . . complete with three big clay exclamation marks. How do you scrape those 16 pieces into the wastebasket?

And so the box of treasures grows a faded burlap banner proclaiming MOM that used to hang by the back door; sheets from a mini coloring book of fairies, all painted hot pink; a dirty string necklace of letter beads spelling out can you guess? I wore it so often that the string smells like my perfume. On many of the handmade cards the glue has dried and I find the bottom of the box littered with sequins, buttons, M & M’s and plastic googly eyes.

Along with the youthful artwork I sometimes stumble on other childhood relics . . . memories often forgotten until I dig into a faded tote bag or open a seldom-used drawer. During a recent visit by Keira, I was searching in my jewelry drawer as she read in a nearby chair. I was opening and closing little boxes looking for a specific pair of earrings when I found a small white leather box the hinged kind that might have originally held a special piece of jewelry. I couldn’t place it, but curious, I snapped it open, and was greeted by a rush of memories. The box is full of my children’s baby teeth and one lock of hair tied with a yellow satin ribbon. Their little faces popped into my head complete with those long-ago gap-toothed smiles.

Oh Keira will love these, I thought her mom’s baby teeth. Smiling to myself, I shut the box while thinking what to say as I showed it to her. And just then horrors – I realized the mistake I had come so close to making. Omigosh, you idiot, you can’t show her these little teeth. What about the Tooth Fairy? I had come so close to spilling the beans . . . how would I have explained an entire night’s haul of the Warren Tooth Fairy? Sometimes it pays to have an angel on your shoulder, especially with a true believer in the room.

So now I’ll take the box of teeth and stash it in one of my memorabilia boxes. And what will I do with the boxes? Who knows probably just keep moving them around because I certainly can’t throw them away.

I am, however, leaving the brightly colored sun up on the wall so I can bask in the rays of childhood memories every day. It makes it easier to smile on a bleak January day.