Time and Space

Clearing the clutter in the attic was a priority this Fall. It started off well. I’d adhered to the “Toss, Donate, Re-Gift, or Keep” rubric so often suggested.

I approached the final dark corner that contained three aging, duct-taped cardboard cartons labeled “Kids Memorabilia.” Those kids were now all married: adults with their own kids. It was time to peel off the tape and assess the need for continued storage. My expectation was an ability to toss things after a last warm and fuzzy recollection of their first arts and crafts projects.

My daughters first-saved interpretive drawing stared up at me. I recognized and remembered my own proud handwriting at the top: Sara , age 3, titled Sliced Kidneys. I remember my delight at her first hesitant pencil marks and meaningless but impressive use of unrelated, obscure words. I was so proud and amused.

There were several tempera painted hand prints from all three children. Now, the paint was crazed but still memorializing their small, smooth, chubby hands. I could almost feel them. There were clumsy clay coiled pots with their initials etched into the bottom. I thought them artfully whimsical and hopelessly unserviceable. I had imagined then, the artistic potential of my 8-year-old. Glitter encrusted treasures rained magic specks of light across my lap.

Carefully stored, I understood their saved value was in capturing and storing the evidence of these sweet and fleeting years. I’d guess nearly a decade, all told. Yes, worthy of continued and forever attic space.

Aside from attic clearing I’ve signed on for a landscape painting class in watercolors; another retirement promise to myself. The class and my cohorts, mostly past fifty and sixty year old adults is enjoyable.

Miriam sits on my right. I’m certain she has either innate talent or has other classes under her belt. Her work is lovely, and features grey-green misty woods or translucent seascapes. The sea-spray moves, and billowing storm clouds are sullen and believable. “ Do you frame your work?”, I ask. “ No, she replies, ”I don’t bother.” Not satisfied, I continue, “But your small pieces would be perfect for special note cards. Your children would surely treasure one for a birthday, rather than a store bought card. They would probably save it forever.” “I doubt that,” she chuckled and turned to continue giving her full attention to painting. I was left to consider this inequity.

I had saved boxes of artwork from my children’s first decade of life, knowing the pleasure I might have in the distant future in a quiet, bittersweet moment of reflection on a fleeting time. Why, I thought, wouldn’t they prize what might be a last decade of my creative efforts. Why wouldn’t they reflect on my continued joy of discovery?

I understood the efficiency of my digital Generation X offspring. They didn’t seem to collect things the way we Baby- Boomers had. They had little in common with us as those things go. But, I realized, what we did have in common was an attic! Yes, they were now bona fide home owners and had attic space. I was grateful for that inter-generational link.

I am only on my third watercolor landscape. It may be as imperfect as that clay coil pot in my attic. I sign and date each painting. I have invested in a Tupperware box which is boldly labeled “Memorabilia.” I sincerely hope it earns a small space in a corner of their attic someday.

Barbara Santarelli

Barbara Santarelli

Barbara Santarelli, R. N. B.S. H.C.A, a recently-retired former elementary school nurse has authored articles about sex education for “tweens” and credits her long and varied nursing career to her cryptic sense of humor and persistent optimism. Her memoir, Everything I Never Wanted, A Memoir Of Excess, to be released on September 12, 2017. When she is not writing, Barbara enjoys cycling, reading, and time with her husband Nick, children, grandchildren and Stella, her nine pound Daschund.
Barbara Santarelli

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