History in the Making in Boxes in the Basement

Rock on, Garth:  You've got to see the Fitzpatrick Student of the Month exhibit at the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.

In an effort to purge the bowels of our house, I’m going through all the stuff that I’ve been tossing down the basement steps for the three years.

This house laxative isn’t just limited to the old lamps, electronics that don’t work, toys that will never be collectibles, plastic caterer’s trays, half rolls of Contac paper in gawd-awful prints, 45 bud vases and 75 trillion crayons.

I’ve got to purge more than that. So I’m starting to move in on the memorabilia, or “mem’ilia” as the boxes are marked. I hadn’t realized it, but apparently I’ve been saving every piece of paper that has been scribbled on, jotted down on, drawn on, painted and glued by my three kids.

The boxes are taking over the Halloween costume corner and the old album crate, so I’ve got to at least bring it down to three or four plastic bins per kid. 

Walking down memory lane is like trying to remember a dream. I don’t remember a fraction of the stuff that my kids did. Are these even my kids? Where was I when all this stuff was happening? Plus I can’t figure out why I kept some of this stuff. There are sections of newspapers in there and I’ve read them front and back and can’t figure out what the significance is. I’m thinking now I was walking past the basement steps one day (Oct. 29, 2003, to be specific) and was too lazy to walk over to the recycling bin, so I just folded up the paper and threw it down the steps with the rest of the 5th grade chorus programs, baptismal certificates and Ice Capades souvenir booklets.

I was telling my sister Kathy that I had to give myself a pep talk before delving into the piles.  “If I have too much, I won’t be able to find the really cool stuff, like the booklet ‘Uranus! By Michael Fitzpatrick.’ Who could forget Mrs. Williams’ solar system unit?”

I decided to think in these terms: When my kids become famous and I get a call at my retirement condo in Florida from the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame - you know the call: “Hello, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, this is X Screetch Z, director of exhibit paraphernalia for the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and we’d like to do a display of your son/daughter in our Emo Alternative Legends Room. We were wondering if you had anything from his/her childhood that we could use.”

I’ve been to the Rock Hall and I’ve seen John Lennon’s report cards as well as the drawings of football players Jimi Hendrix did at the bottom of his math papers, so I know what they’re looking for. I am so going to have something. I’m going to make John and Jimi’s moms look like pikers.

I think they’ll like my daughter’s handwritten comments in the margins of the church bulletin:  “A second collection?? Really?? Good job!!”  and “I will call 726-9925 for more information, as soon as I get home!!” I think they’ll connect with the fact that she went to approximately 100 Catholic masses without paying a bit of attention.

Or my son’s letters: “Dear Easter Bunny, Please do not put the chocolate Easter bunnys on the floor. We do not want Spangky to throw up again.”   “Dere dad it is me Jack. I got tastations I am giving you my last one.”  And this second grade journal entry:  “I would like to have a penguin for a friend. Because penguins are good swimmers.” Heck yeah!

And this cryptic piece of sarcasm from future rocker Mike:  “Dear Santa, I hope you’re not afraid of heights.” And: “Santa, good luck with the rest of your trip.” You can almost hear the snicker, can’t you? 

As you can see, I’ve saved every note to and from Santa, every accomplishment, every not-so accomplishment, every school paper (although why I saved the B- math papers and the junior high term papers with the teacher comment “You have more potential,” is beyond me.

So I have been getting pickier, especially as the clock ticks on and I’m only five boxes into the mess. I’ve decided that the Rock Hall is not going to want any multi-media items, so I’m only saving flat, two-dimensional papers. Anything that has crushed eggshells glued onto it, opens as a flipbook or has Dixie cups sticking out of it is going in the trash – and that includes about 12 autumn leaf collection booklets. And no more trophies with their names misspelled and for sports that I can’t remember a single game.

The problem with the rock star scenario is that they’ll want too much. Kathy says you need to either think more in terms of a Presidential Library, where they’re not going to want anything that makes them look sinister, like my daughter’s all-inclusive Johnny Depp stalker phase, which right now takes up about 1/5 of our basement, my son’s made-up secret identities (he claims on several papers that his nickname is “Ryan” – not true) and my other son’s invention of a country called Libertana, a tyrannical dictatorship in which each neighborhood kid had a different political cornerstone.

Who knows who that call is going to be from. If I knew, I’d know what to save and what to toss. All I can do now is keep sorting and trying to figure out what some of it is.

Does anyone remember Jack playing baseball? I’ve got three trophies with his name on them and I can’t for the life of me remember Jack “Ryan” Fitzgerald playing catcher.