I am feeling nostalgic lately. I’m not sure what it is, but I suspect it has something to do with Halloween. I remember that my dad would go all in with some costumes. One of us would want to be something, and he’d get a spark in his eye, and the next thing you knew he’d be cutting boxes and paper mache-ing and duct taping and, voilá, two days and 10 hours later we’d be a headless horseman. If Pinterest were a thing back then, his creativity would have gone viral. Of course, he’d spend so much time on the one costume that the other two of us would have to pick from the sad garbage bag of dress up clothes that was always collecting must in the basement. Look, Mom. This crumpled grass skirt makes me a hula girl! Again!

The kids’ costumes this year are accidentally and especially nostalgia provoking.

Fern from Charlotte's Web
Fern from Charlotte’s Web
Inspector Gadget
Inspector Gadget

There is a new series of Inspector Gadget on Netflix, and once Vivvi binge-watched those, she discovered and got into the Inspector Gadgets from the days of yore. The graphics on the new series are bright and flashy and modern. The storylines are entertaining with, of course, a lesson kids can apply to make themselves more empathetic. The old ones are pencil drawings and classic 90s go-action-sequence-go entertainment. I didn’t pay much attention when she started watching the old ones, until one day I happened to pause it on this image. Go-go-gadget Oh-woo-gah Eyes.

IMG_5615I asked Vivvi what was going on in the story, and she said, “That girl is Amazon Annie. Inspector Gadget is in love.” This, friends, is what my generation grew up with. No wonder we are looking at ourselves in the mirror and wondering what happened. And of course, my little romance girl can’t get enough. She was born in the wrong age. Praise the Lord.

Or my recent bout of nostalgia might have something to do with my recent cleaning tear I’ve been doing in my kids’ rooms. Normally I am a hanger-on-of-things. (Evidenced by the clothes I still have in my closet from high school. They do not fit, because, two kids. But I hang on with some imagined future use. A quilt! The only quilt in history sourced from 1990s thrift stores and the boys’ section of cheesy vacation gift shops!) Wally tells me I have to stop. But for real—sometimes the imagined uses come true. Exhibit A: 90s Hot Topic shirt, turned 5 year old PJs.

13327450_10154981198794465_2725600418757443460_nBut lately, their rooms are so full of…sh-tuff…that I find it constricting my insides when I walk through. Especially since Wally 5 inherited my hoarding tendencies and his idea of organizing means lining things up on every available surface. When he is cleaning, football player cards—the boy doesn’t even like football, mind you—instead of being stacked, are lined up side by side like a garbage placemat on which he can stack more garbage. Is your skin suffocating your bones and organs yet?

So I’ve had enough, and I’ve done a sh-tuff-ocide. Everything that hasn’t been played with in 6 months must go. I spent 6 hours in Vivvi’s room touching everything, and the same in Wally 5’s a week later. And most of the sh-tuffiest sh-tuff I was able to good riddance and send it down the sh-tuff-hole where it belongs.

But then I found the pillow pet. As far as comfort goes, it’s puffy in all the wrong places. And as far as allergy-friendliness for my little environmental allergy-prone boy, it rates high on the certain-deep-cough-that-teachers-write-home-about scale. But Wally 5 never had a blankie or nigh-nigh. He never had a favorite stuffy. He had this pillow pet.

And it wasn’t the gorilla and his puffy gorilla-ness he was after. His love was more specific than that. Every night from the ages 1-3 years old, we’d read him a story, sing him a song, and he’d say, “What are we doing after naps?” (A question that, still, at 8-years-old he feels compulsion to ask every night.) Then, when this was his beloved pillow, he’d say, “Where’s my tail?” And he’d find the gorilla’s sad little tail and hold it tight.

I was about to stuff the lumpy beast back under Wally 5’s bed, and husband Wally stopped me. “Throw it away,” he said.

“But don’t you remember?” I pleaded. “Where’s my tail?”

Husband Wally looked at me with compassion. “Throw it away,” he said. “It’s too big to keep. It harvests dust mites. It might smell.”

“Should we cut off the tail to keep?” I asked, wanting to hang on to something but knowing how brutal that sounded. And hoard-y. And serial-killer-y.

So we took this picture. And I realized, when I threw it away, the relief of letting go. Because it’s not the gorilla. Or its hacked off tail (you weirdo). It’s the memory of Wally’s little voice saying, “Where’s my tail,” as he searched for it in his cozy bed and the white noise thrummed and the stars shone in. And I get to keep that memory forever.

Pillow Pet

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