Moms in toyland: The keepers of childhoods

Three boys are sprawled on the green carpet in the basement, nearly buried in piles of Legos. They talk, they plan, and they build.

That’s one of my favorite memories of my sons when they were young. They came up with lots of ingenious creations with those blocks.

Now that they are grown, I am reminded of my sons often, because I still have all those Legos. Six large plastic containers of them fill my basement storage shelves, along with tubs of Transformers, cars and G.I. JOEs — plus a large Star Wars collection.

I’m not allowed to throw any of it away. Fortunately, I have lots of storage space in the basement. If I ever have to downsize or move out of this house, the toys will have to go. But until then, I am the keeper of my sons’ childhoods. And that is OK with me. I like to remember them as young children.

But my sons have lots of other stuff, and I am still the keeper of that, too. I’ve been whittling away at it slowly as my sons have moved out.

Take baseball cards, for instance. I finally got permission to sell them a couple of years ago. I sold the Warhammer figurines, too. I never could understand that game. You pay an exorbitant amount for a few tiny battle figures, then you have to paint them — with expensive Warhammer brand paint.

Then there were my youngest son’s music CDs. It took me weeks to sort them out, but I kept some for myself — and I still enjoy them — and gave lots to friends. The rest went to charity, unless they had no case or were broken. Those went to a plastic recycler near Glen Rock, as did a lot of old VHS tapes. (Alas, the recycler is not taking plastic at the moment. I am hoping he resumes in the spring.)

There is still a way to go. My youngest son owns 50 or 60 black T-shirts with names of obscure rock bands on them. His artist brother stores stacks of old sketchbooks in the bedroom closet. Both of them have cartons of photos taken in high school and college. I don’t need the space really, but I don’t need the stuff, either.

One box is staying, though. It’s filled with assorted wooden shapes. When they were little, my sons’ favorite activity when visiting my parents was to go down to my dad’s basement workshop. Deeda, as the boys called him, would find scrap lumber and plywood and instruct the boys to draw a picture of what they wanted him to make. Swords and guns predominated, but there were dinosaurs and vehicles, too. Deeda would cut the toys out of wood and the boys would paint or color them.

Those are family heirlooms, and I’m saving them for — dare I say it? — grandchildren.

This past Christmas, my oldest son, Mike, finally spoke words that were music to my ears. “Mom, I think I’ll take some Legos home with me.” Yes!

He took his wife, Angy, down to the basement toy archive, where she marveled at the quantity and variety. She was completely OK with bringing some of Mike’s toys into their home.

When he packed to fly back to Utah, Mike had room left in his duffel bag for Legos, but just for one gallon-size zip bag full. At that rate, my husband said, we’ll have grandchildren in college before we get rid of the stuff. Still, one bag is better than none.

And we’re planning to visit Utah this year. We can bring him some more — a whole suitcase full maybe. I know he has the space.

The house he and Angy bought has a basement. It was used by the previous owners to store toys.

Teresa Cook is a copy editor for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach her at or 717-771-2022.

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