I was transplanting a hosta in our back yard when the noise reached me, a shrill keening spiraling from Anna’s bedroom. Shortly afterward my wife appeared above me at the landing window, shoulders agitating like a cocktail shaker, her face distorted with grief.
This has happened before. It generally means one of three things:
• We are hormonal. You must live in the kindling box the next three days.
• QVC just sold out of the bracelet I wanted.
• My credit card interest for last month equals the GDP of Mozambique.
As it turned out, none of these applied. “She was so cute!” Marsha wailed as tears coursed down her cheeks. Aha. There could be but one other explanation. She’d been into the Boo-Hoo Box.
The Boo-Hoo Box is our version of the proverbial child’s keepsake chest, a contraction of “Boo-hoo, our baby’s growing up” box. It contains the stuff of Anna’s that we can’t bear to part with plus anything we’d get into a fistfight over trying to sell in a garage sale and the consignment store would give us three cents for, anyway. Things like her first little dump truck, her Anna Banana tee shirt from the eponymous store on Plantation Key, her first pair of soccer cleats.
The Boo-Hoo Box began as a cardboard container no bigger than a sub-woofer. It’s since morphed into a plastic tote the size of an Ohio River barge. We’re confident it will eventually hold her first car, which she has informed us will be a VW Beetle. It has special meaning for us because Anna is an only child and will probably remain so unless one of her friends lodges in the chimney during a playdate. So whatever goes into the tote stands not merely for “little Anna” but for early childhood, that precious time of pre-cognitive innocence. It’s mythic.
For Anna, it’s just old stuff. Partly from having grandparents who overspend on her so severely she’s still opening birthday presents four months later on Christmas morning, she views it more pragmatically, the way an assembly line worker might regard yesterday’s product. What we see as being sprinkled with fairy dust, like her first set of tub toys, she sees exactly as they are: plastic boats stippled with mold that we couldn’t scrub off. As they say, nothing is more distant than the recent past, and that evidently applies even if you’re seven years old.
Something tells me that may change, though. As the merry-go-round of childhood picks up speed between school and soccer and swimming and dance and social lepidopterism, Anna may feel more inclined to jump off now and then to revisit the days when an entire afternoon could be spent taping the Tupperware together or eating a bowl of Rice Krispies one at a time. A day may come, even, when Barbie numero uno will migrate to summer camp or dorm, carefully obscured in the foot of a sleeping bag, to be less carefully extracted later on (“Dudes! Let’s all bob for Barbie in the beer!”)
For the moment, all the boo-hoos are ours, and not just for Anna. I’ve noticed the cataract of keepsakes is slowing somewhat. This may partly reflect an increase in toy size. It's a lot harder to fit “my first ten-speed” into a box than Mr. Potato Head. But as her playthings become more sophisticated and adultlike and the daily routine more intense, Marsha and I may, without knowing it, be becoming equally casual about archiving Anna’s past. In other words, we may be losing some innocence ourselves, as parents. Which is why we’ll always have a Boo-Hoo Box--- to remind us some things are worth keeping to miss.
Even if it means crating a VW now and then.