When Is the right time to clean out an adult son’s boyhood bedroom? (And I say “son” ‘cos I had one child, a boy, and never experienced what it’s like being the mom of a girl.)
This was the week I did it. Cleaned my son’s room, I mean. Fifteen years after he moved out, or as I like to refer to it, when my darling Angel Boy abandoned his mommy.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m the antithesis — the total opposite — of a “free range” mom.
Need an example?
I carried Angel Boy until he was about seven-years-old, when his legs dangled to the ground, and he was ALMOST my size.
In this photo, he’s probably thirteen-years-old or so, my little Harry Potter look alike, already taller than me. See that MOMjoy? All it takes is being next to him to bring out that kind of a smile. (And that swishy track suit was all the rage in the 90s, I promise you.)
So, don’t make me say the dreaded words; “moved out”.
That’s bittersweet and rife with sadjoy (my new word all moms should immediately start using in our daily conversations.)
Sad he’s gone, but joy and pride in his accomplishments and goals. Mostly sad, though.
The purge. Well, more accurately; the relocation.
From the first grade, a diorama of the Carlsbad sea wall that his dad built — dinosaur books, academic awards, handwritten spelling tests, report cards, a writing prompt about what the future might hold (potential editor of National Lampoon)…one of the last Valentine’s Day cards made for me before that tragic discovery of the wonderful world of females who are NOT Mom–
And so many books: Chaucer to Mann to Goethe to Faulkner, Welty, Shakespeare, all the books from fifteen years of college and graduate school.
In a bookish family like ours, it’s a tough Sophie’s choice kind of dilemma: how does one determine which book might not have value? It’s pretty much impossible.
But here’s the real question…
Is there ever a right time to clean out an adult son’s boyhood bedroom?
The answer to that — for me– has always and will forever be a resounding NO! NEVER! — until I came up with the brilliant idea of simply moving things to another area, saved and protected, organized into plastic tubs to be stored in the garage, thus not purging nor destroying parts of him which is really part of me, but preserving forever and forever my Angel Boy’s childhood which means he hasn’t really grown up and gotten married and moved away and doesn’t need his mommy anymore…SIGH.
Wait a sec, let me wipe away dust-streaked tears. SIGH.
Buck up, Princess Rosebud, there’s still hope, he might be back, adult children DO return home, sometimes they DO need to fly back INTO the nest, so all is not completely lost.
Something to cling to, to be prepared for. Happily.
Every picture, every single scrap of scribbled upon paper, every college application, all art projects from the age of two, baby books, envelopes of baby curls, baby teeth the Tooth Fairy saved, that fallen off shred of shriveled umbilical cord (yes, Angel Boy, I told you we were forever connected, how could you doubt me?)
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like his room hasn’t been cleaned properly in the thirty years we’ve lived in this house, because it has, but we had stored everything that belonged to him in his closet — just in case he needed that one specific item for any reason.
Or in case he decides to start collecting baseball cards again–of which there are THOUSANDS.
I’m a hoarder, not a tosser; he and I share this attribute. Although the one and only item we’ve ever tossed out will forever haunt tugboat man and I…his favorite skateboard.
Angel Boy hadn’t sk8d in years, the half pipe ramp in our backyard disintegrated and had been torn down; who would have known that it meant so much to him? Apparently, MOM should have known, but one summery day, tugboat man and I were cleaning out the garage, and did the horrible-est thing EVER — we put the sk8board out in the street instead of framing and hanging on the wall. This was about ten years ago, and my son won’t let us forget how we failed him.
Guilt and shame compels us to regularly offer to replace the board; however, no new board could possibly subsume the sweet memories of that fave — but we learned our lesson and promised to NEVER again summarily throw away any item that might contain a shred of sentiment without prior authorization. In writing.
Now that his room is so pristine. So vacant. So unoccupied.
For Rent: One room. Three meals, snacks, and yes, one very sadjoy empty nest MOTHER included…