I have just taken possession of an envelope full of my very own ginger baby curls from 1974. I’m not entirely sure what to do with them – reaction from friends ranged from “ewww” and “spooky” to “that’s disgusting and sweet at the same time” – but I am thankful to my Aunty Margaret for keeping them all these years. (Hey, I know someone who’s kept every toe nail he’s clipped and someone else who has both of his sons’ foreskins to present to them at their 21st birthday parties. Now that’s disgusting!)
Back to the suddenly-far-more-savoury envelope of 40-year-old Spencer hair. This, combined with moving back into our home post-renovations, has seen me contemplating the treasures we keep, and those we throw out or misplace, especially from childhood. I have shoe-boxes full of theme park and special event (think Commonwealth Games, Expo 88) souvenirs, medals, report cards, love letters, vinyl records, books, model trains and other toys dating back to the ’70s and ’80s. Even my high school blazer!
But you can’t hold on to everything forever. And eventually, if you don’t do it yourself, your own children will have to deal with these trinkets. That’s why Claudette Prince recently put her Sydney 2000 Olympic Games torch on the market. Claudette told me: “No-one in the family knows I’m doing it. They’d tell me not to. I’ve got a fairly large family and when I leave this mortal coil they’re going to be saying ‘what are we going to do with all this stuff of Mum’s? Do you want this?’ It doesn’t mean anything to anyone else.”
So what do you keep and what do you cull? You’ve heard the expression: “What you haven’t used for 18 months, you don’t need.” Well here’s a new one for you, one of the dads at Jack’s school offered me the following advice for not cluttering the house: “When we moved, we only brought half the things back into the house.” Wow! Half?! There’s a challenge! So I’ve taken this on as my new philosophy. But how do you know what to keep? I asked on Twitter – what do you treasure most from your childhood?
Stuffed toys featured prominently in the replies. I still have Pussy, a well-loved cat given to me by my Great Aunty Minnie the day I was born. I used to “smoke” Pussy, which involved breathing through her ears. Did I just reveal that publicly?! Yes I think I did… For @KimmerLions, it’s her plush purple poodle which she’s had for about 50 years; @Polikat2 still has Big Ted; @Monkylicious treasures “a teddy bear and blankie I’ve had since I was one”; and @TheJenHansen holds on to Puppy: “He was my stuffed dog I slept with. He’s a bit bald. When I was two, I pulled his fur off while sleeping.”
Meanwhile @BrizzieBlog still has the first story she wrote when she was just five, @Kin_ has her dance costumes – “my children get such joy from them” – and @Simonwf is holding onto a one-piece baby jumpsuit that he wore, his son wore, “and I’m saving for his child if it lasts that long!”
Of course, we don’t all have the luxury of deciding what to keep. For some, it’s already too late or the decision’s been made for us. For example, @Dellvink says she “was devastated my mum threw out a stuffed sock with eyes called Oogly. I still wish I had him.” And therein lies a lesson for anyone thinking of clearing out their children’s things – check with them first! But @Dellvink may yet be reunited with her Oogly; @Psephy regretted discarding a toy guitar but in a remarkable twist “recovered it some 30 years later at an antique sale!”
Have we learned anything from all this talk of long-loved toys and teddy bears? I think I have. Among all the replies to my Twitter question about what we still treasure from childhood was this one from the – how shall I describe him? – shiny-topped @Debritz: “Sadly not my hair!”
And as I read those four words, I know why this envelope-full of 1970s Howson locks has found its way back to me. One day soon, I may need them again on my head! I am definitely not throwing them away!