A lot of my childhood stuff was discarded over the years, but neither I nor mom ever discarded Sad Baby. Plush in all parts except the face, she had a zippered-pouch in back cradling a music box. The soft body, with lilting musical tones, was a comforting snuggle.
The plushie eventually made her way from the east coast to California, her cloth frayed and worn, the music box long dead and disposed of. I washed her face, aired her out and alternately displayed her on my bed or stuck her in the garage.
Years passed. Sad Baby had been in the garage a while when a desire to declutter arose. My decluttering urges loop around regularly. Each time, something that survived the last cycle, does not make the current cut.
One de-clutter tip I’d read was to take a picture of an object cared about but no longer wanted. It would keep the memory without having to store the thing.
I looked at Sad Baby. “It’s time,” I thought. “Time to let go of you.” Sad Baby had been mine for 55-years.
I took a picture, tucked her into my trick trash, and she was gone.
Sad Baby comfortably lived in my memory. I didn’t miss her. I was content with my decision.
Bubba and I were having dinner with friends. As we ate, Jack talked about a Raggedy Andy doll he’d cherished as a child. He’d held onto it into his adult years, but somewhere along the way Andy had been lost. In the absence of the doll—lost without intent—Jack felt a longing.
He wanted to replace Raggedy Andy. With the internet and eBay, he started his search.
“And I found him!” he said.
He excused himself from the table. When he returned, he held a version of the Raggedy Andy from his childhood. Jack was smiling.
In that moment, observing his joy at tangibly reconnecting with a childhood memory, one of my characters suddenly wondered, “what have I done?”
I had been content with getting rid of Sad Baby. Suddenly, I wasn’t.
“What kind of person am I,” this character thought, “who can so casually throw out a beloved doll from childhood? Jack would never do that. He treasured his Raggedy Andy so much he sought to replace the one he’d lost.”
I didn’t want to feel distressed. And yet, here I was.
It was a fascinating moment. Had I never heard about Jack and his Raggedy Andy, I assume I would have remained at peace with my decision to get rid of Sad Baby. Or maybe I wasn’t at peace, and Jack’s story aroused that doubt.
The thing is, I didn’t think I had lingering regrets about the choice I’d made. And yet, when I observed my actions relative to Jack’s actions, feelings of distress arose. I respect Jack. If I didn’t, I likely wouldn’t have reacted the same way. But because I do, looking at my choice relative to his, I suddenly found myself feeling as if I’d made the wrong decision to get rid of Sad Baby; that I’d done some aspect of life wrong. It was a feeling I experienced in that moment, assessing my actions relative to his.
It made me wonder how often I scan the social landscape and make internal assessments—often unconscious—about the choices I’m making and how I’m doing relative to others; was that a bad choice or a good decision? I’d love to think at this stage of life I’d be able to look within to know who I am. But given my reaction to Jack’s Raggedy Andy story, I’m clearly still looking outside myself for clues.
Photo source: Walk the Goats