I Gave Away My Daughter’s Childhood
Last week we loaded our daughter’s bedroom furniture into a stranger’s car and watched it drive away.
I had a moment of clarity just before the doors slammed, sealing away our possessions: this is the last time I will ever see it.
It was a sobering thought. And a surprising one.
I have always been sentimental to a fault, but despite that have never held onto anything for too long. A somewhat nomadic childhood regularly culled the material vestiges of my past, and I carried on those practices into adulthood.
This was different. The furniture had been in the family since my wife was a little girl. We’d handed it down to our own daughter. And now, on the edge of thirteen, she’d outgrown it.
And for some reason I was having a hard time letting it go.
It’s not like I’d even liked it all that much when it’d been ours. The furniture was a product of the 80's, cheap particle board painted a pale cream and accented with whorls of pink and yellow and pale blue. The bright pink knobs were a later addition, found at a Home Depot after my daughter inherited it.
It also was temperamental, in the ornery way that only inanimate objects can be.
The desk’s knob screws were a tad too long, which meant you could never quite tighten the knobs completely to stop them spinning, and replacement screws were either too long or too short; Goldilocks wanted no part of this desk. The drawers were always stuffed to overflowing with drawings and old birthday cards and the assorted flimflam that accumulates in the bottom of drawers and is summarily forgotten.
The chair groaned whenever someone sat in it, as though it couldn’t be bothered.
The squat nightstand, sullen from the tyranny of condensating glasses.
The long dresser that somehow was always messy, despite it’s ample surface area. Piles of books leaning crookedly; crumpled tissues; a jewelry box, it’s doors askew; hair ties and bobby pins and all the other unseen female accouterments to which I’d previously been unaware; the glitter of a necklace amid the chaos.
Framed by wooden flourishes, the mirror seemed to weigh as much as the dresser. I won’t miss fighting gravity to hang it on the wall, or the creeping certainty it was going to come crashing down at the most inopportune moment. But I will miss how my daughter used it in conjunction with the long dresser as a kind of enormous vanity.
I will miss sitting at her desk and idly flipping through her drawings.
I will miss the friendly pink knobs. They were bought when she was just a baby, and I’d not yet truly understood the strange and wonderful way of girls. They were my contribution.
I will miss the girl who danced in front of the mirror, singing Christmas songs even though it was only June. But she is gone now, lost to memory and time. No amount of furniture will bring her back.
We’ve bought her a whole new set. Something more age appropriate and definitely more modern. And more fitting to the girl. The old furniture had never really belonged to her anyway.
Just as she has never truly belonged to me. I am only her temporary steward, a guide on her way to other things. Sooner than I’d like, she’ll be gone, too.
As I watched the car drive away, bits of furniture glimpsed through half-open windows, I wondered if I might wish we'd kept such a tangible piece of her childhood, that I might sit at, and look at, and remember.
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