Their pleading, plastic eyes stare up at me. Behind their perpetual grins lies a sense of fear and desperation. They know what’s coming. Of that, I’m certain.
Decisions have to be made. There simply isn’t enough room for all of them. Some of these once-treasured artifacts of childhood are going on a trip, and they aren’t coming back.
So I will kneel down, trash bag in hand, and with a heavy heart, decide who stays and who goes.
Some have the benefit of sentimental attachment. They’re safe.
There’s the first bear I bought Jellybean, right after she was born. I gave it to her in the hospital on the night a tornado drill forced all the new mothers out into the hall well past midnight.
There’s the monkey that picks his nose. It was mine when I was a kid, and one of the toys I had at my grandparents’ house the night my house burned down when I was in kindergarten.
There’s the Simba cub wrapped in a blanket that came from our family trip to Disney World, and the Christmas bear we got on sale because his back paw was sewn on backwards.
There’s the Sleep Monster my friend made, and the various Eeyores … because they’re Eeyore and his life’s been hard enough.
These are all safe, along with some American Girl dolls, a few "naked babies," a Grinch, a Wocket and that talking dog that Granny gave Jellybean for her first birthday — the one that sings about how her favorite color is "pink" and her favorite food is "cheese."
Others — some of which I swear I’ve never seen before — will get tossed in the garbage bag and wait, like a snitch from "The Sopranos," to learn their fate.
Think of it as the "Toy Story" effect, this idea that the things we love have souls — which of course they do. It’s a life force, not like a beating heart or actual tears, but an emotional attachment that comes from the memories that their existence, even if they’re just tossed into an old trunk, brings back to us.
I’ve always been oddly sentimental about things, stuff, junk, whatever you want to call it. Despite a near-clinical aversion to clutter — I once accidentally threw away Barry Manilow tickets for my Dear Sweet Mother because I was on a cleaning binge — I’ll always make room for the things that remind me of youth, good times, someone special, an event.
As a father, those attachments have only grown stronger. I hold on to some things because, deep down, I worry about forgetting particularly good days or things that Jellybean or The Diva and I did.
It’s why I’ll never get rid of the Mona Lisa zombie shirt that The Diva gave me for Christmas last year, despite the fact that it makes me look like I have man-boobs. It was the first present she ever picked out herself and bought with her own money.
It’s why I’m thinking about buying a second refrigerator to display Jellybean’s "I Love My Daddy" artwork.
But there is a fine line between collecting and hoarding, so sacrifices must be made. Hence the garbage bag filled with some of the less memorable detritus of Jellybean’s childhood. And no, I didn’t consult her.
Still, I find comfort in knowing that by donating these toys, some other kid will form a bond that his parents will one day remember. Now all I need to do is find the courage to drop off the bag.
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org.