Archaeology of the Heart

On the first of several days off last week I began a somber project.  I started helping my youngest son prepare his personal items for us to either store or mail to him at his first duty station.  He is not leaving until July, but I know that if I wait until right before he leaves, I will be a bundle of emotions and this task will be so much harder to accomplish.

So last Thursday I began consolidating the largest collection of Legos that has ever existed.  Ever since our firstborn was old enough to play with Legos without eating them, we began collecting.  About 20 years’ worth.  That is a LOT of little bitty pieces of hard plastic, each of them covered in pointy edges.  Over the course of time, I am sure I have stepped on them all.  With my bare feet.

Right away I did something that I immediately regretted:  I dumped the entire contents of the small bin of Legos into the bigger bin that would be sealed and put away.  Unfortunately, mixed in with the Legos were pencils, pens, gum wrappers, toy cars, loose change and other items that I could not name.  I realized that I was in for the long haul in getting this project ready for posterity.

I gathered my supplies:  my vacuum cleaner, an old sock, antibacterial wipes, a small bowl and a garbage can.  With the care of a seasoned archaeologist, I covered the end of the vacuum cleaner hose with the old sock and proceeded to pick up any dust.  After a few seconds, I would turn off the vacuum, hold the end of the hose over the small bowl, and pull the sock farther up the hose.  This would cause any Legos that got sucked into the sock to pop into the bowl.  I could then separate them, then vacuum up the dust.   It was easy to get rid of the dead batteries and other garbage.  Some of the other stuff, not so much.

As I cleaned and sorted, I began to imagine the day that this bin would be opened again.  I pictured it being a rainy day, my sons sitting on the floor with their own little ones.  Maybe they would begin talking about the things they used to build.  Maybe they would talk about events that inspired them to build.  There would be lots of memories.  Lots of good memories.

I was suddenly reminded of my own childhood days of rummaging through my grandmother’s button box.  It was a real treat to examine the buttons one by one.  It was especially exciting to find other things in the box that had nothing to do with buttons.  A small china doll.  A tiny replica of a vintage oatmeal canister.  Somehow these things had extra importance:  they really didn’t belong with buttons.  It was a mystery why they were in there.  Apparently I liked it that way, because I never asked my grandmother why these unrelated items were in the button box.

That’s when it hit me:  I would make the Lego storage bin into our very own Time Capsule, like the button box.  Matchbox cars and Micro machines went back in, as well as small airplanes.  Little items that might trigger big memories.  I placed some of the coins back into the box, in the hopes that one day a small child might look in awe at the old coins…his or her own ‘buried treasure’ found in the Lego bin.  Sometimes just a small bit of chaos is all we need to liven things up a bit.

It was quietly reassuring that one day these items will be loved again.  One day we will once again hear the familiar sound of small pieces of plastic being excitedly raked around in the search for a specific Lego.  The sound of creativity.  It is my fervent prayer that it is a sound we both will hear.


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