When I had the idea to rip out the 20-year-old ratty carpet downstairs and replace it with hardwood floors, I forgot that someone—read: me—would need to pack into boxes every single item and carry them upstairs. The problem is that the downstairs has become our house’s de facto floor-sized closet, the black hole into which I throw everything I lack the heart to throw out. By which I mean every sheet of paper on which my children have inscribed a pencil mark, every tempera paint hand print, every shaky capital letter “M” for Mateo, the note from Olivia that states: “I lov yu no maddr whut” or the one over my desk: “Yur the best momy ever.” The packing job is taking days.

I am a woman who owns three pairs of blue jeans and two pairs of sneakers. My makeup routine consists of a swipe of L’oreal lipstick I buy at CVS. Except for my books and Guatemalan handicrafts, I collect nothing.  But give me a face drawn with marker on a paper plate, a paper towel drenched with watercolor, or a Valentine’s card like the one Mateo gave me (inscribed, mysteriously, with “we love carrots”), and I figure there’s always another plastic storage container to be bought, another box to be scavenged from Safeway. Somewhere, I’ll make space.

This morning I enrolled Mateo in kindergarten and as I stood outside the multi-purpose room watching the children hurl themselves across the playground—big kids in first and second grade—I felt the jab that comes with knowing in a few short months my son will enter the world his sister Olivia already inhabits. A wider world of statewide assessments and spelling tests, of progress reports and math homework. I’m familiar with that world, and it leaves little room for tempera paint hand prints in the margins.

Which is why my job of packing the downstairs is taking so long and requires so many boxes. The future is fast approaching. I’m stockpiling the past.


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