I have a Ziploc baggie full of hair at my house right now.
I also have a whole cabinet full of hair, but that's hair that's serving a purpose, to make me more beautiful. This hair is just kind of sitting there. See, there's apparently a tradition of saving the first lock of hair from a baby's first haircut. When it was offered to me at the barbershop, I eagerly accepted it, wrapped it in a wad of toilet paper and stuck it in my pocket. But now that I have it here, it seems kind of weird? And a little gross? Like, what am I supposed to do with this hair?
"Put it in a scrapbook," people say, but really? You want me to put a lock of human hair under plastic next to some bubble stickers and put it on my bookshelf? I'm not freaking Dexter. Even grosser, Lesley just chimed in that somewhere in her father's house is a box full of her baby teeth. Like, why? Does he take them out and gaze at them lovingly occasionally? And if so, why is Lesley's hypothetical dad so creepy? Also, I'd be careful about this one if you have young kids, because this is how I actually realized the Tooth Fairy wasn't real -- I found a tooth that had supposedly been taken by her in my mom's dresser.
But when it comes to heartfelt occasions, there's a lot of pressure to treasure the associated paraphernalia forever, even when it's not biological material. I managed to beg out of saving cake from the first birthday since we would have had to take it on a plane, but what about this stack of birthday cards? They're sweet, it was a beautiful occasion, but I'm working with New York City square footage here. My own mother had endless cabinet space in sprawling suburban rooms in which to store my every scribbled hand turkey if she wanted. I've got a household-supplies closet that is literally half the depth of a regular-sized closet due to the fact that the brownstone that probably once housed one family has been sliced and diced into multiple apartments. And this shit is only going to get worse as the kid gets older -- eventually we'll have school projects, homemade Mother's Day cards, and teensy weensy outfits that don't fit anymore to contend with.
And you don't have to be a parent to agonize over what to save and what to throw out. Until recently, I had boxes full of every notebook I ever wrote in from adolescence on, including ones that were just full of like, algebra. And while it's kind of cool to realize that I once knew FREAKING ALGEBRA, the only time I looked at that stuff in a decade is when I cleaned out the closet and threw most of it away.
Cards in general are a gray area. As Lesley puts it, it can feel like "disrespecting the gift," but the alternative is what? To save every card you get in your life until they pile up so high you drown in a pile of your own precarious well-wishes? I usually end up compromising and just leave cards in a pile somewhere until it feels like an acceptable amount of time has passed to discard them. That said, I have whole dresses that are neither my size nor my style stuffed in my overflowing closet because of some intangible memory clinging to them. How could I get rid of that weird stretchy red shirt that some teenage boy crammed his hand up under for the first time? How could I throw out my great-grandmother's furs and opera gloves, despite the unlikelihood that I will wear them in my lifetime?
I have photo albums, and a box full of odds and ends like a program from the first play I wrote and a seemingly random selection of concert tickets. I am still hanging on to tons of adolescent writing, from scrawled journals and poetry to essays like my AWARD-WINNING "Letters to Ayn Rand" magnum opus. Third place, but still. And honestly, as we increasingly rely on easily lost and deleted digital pics to hold our most precious memories, it's nice to hold a solid object that reminds us of where we've been.
Unless it's actually kind of gross. Jane just told me that not only does Charlotte's baby book include 6 peed-on pregnancy tests, but she saved the little part that falls off from the umbilical cord and then lost it. So somewhere in Jane's house there's a disgusting -- I just looked up what this is called and GOD -- a disgusting STUMP from an umbilical cord. Just chilling. Gross, Jane! She added that she has a huge cabinet from Ikea full of basically every time Charlotte ever wrote "Mom" on a piece of paper and that she never looks at any of it. So there you go.
What do you pack rat and what do you let go? Do you have anything grosser than an umbilical cord stump from your child? And what am I supposed to do with this freaking hair???