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Boy Moves into Man Cave

            I had a clutch of anxiety this morning when I couldn’t find Paddington. I wanted to make sure the tiny bear hadn’t gotten tossed when we stripped our 15-year-old son’s room, painted it, and transformed it into what looks like a man cave, with black furniture and nary a toy or book in sight.

            Christopher has had the miniature Paddington since he was a baby, and while he isn’t the slightest bit attached to the toy, I am. I’d tuck Paddington into his crib, and later when Christopher was older and steering toy cars around on the floor, Paddington was an occasional passenger in James Bond’s Astin Martin. In the years since Christopher has outgrown all that, Paddington resided in the corner of the sock drawer, his red boots cheerfully punctuating the tangle of mismatched footwear.

            This room makeover will probably be the last. Fifteen now, in 10th grade, looming over both of us at 6’2”, Christopher will leave for college in the blink of an eye, and his room will become only a way station for what I hope will be at least occasional visits home.

            Over the years, we’ve changed his quarters around many times. We swapped the crib for a bed, sorted toys and books as he outgrew them, traded Look AlikesI Spy, and books about construction equipment for Scariest Stories and Harry Potter, moved aside the thousands of Legos that perpetually crunched underfoot for an iPod, and lately, made room for textbooks weighing more than a hefty toddler. We donated toys and books continually over the years, and each of these transitions has given me pangs. I packed up Rocky, the stuffed terrier, the model B75 biplane, the well-thumbed copy of The Complete Roald Dahl, and hoisted them into the attic, unable to completely sever that tie between the sunny toddler, the laughing grade-schooler, and the ever-growing young man.

            The maple dresser where Paddington lived most recently is a hand-me-down, purchased in the 50s by my former in-laws, solid maple, very well crafted with mortise and tenon handiwork, made in Burlington, Vt. There’s a new, low, black dresser now, and when I mused aloud about what to do with the old one, my son truculently recommended chopping it up for firewood.

            I spotted Paddington on a shelf in the hall, filled with a jumble of drumsticks, games, books, trophies, hats, marbles, and model Lamborghinis. All this stuff awaits triage:  attic, dustbin, or Goodwill. Christopher must have tossed Paddington there to await his fate when he cleared out the old (potential firewood) dresser. I’m glad he didn’t chuck him, and I’d like to think he’d vote that Paddington gets to stay.  I didn’t wait for him to make that determination, however, snatching up the small bear and putting him safely in my own drawer. In his blue velvet coat, Paddington is a two-inch keepsake of a time when Christopher ventured out into January rains in a similar hat and boots, when he loved to have me read to him about London adventures, and when I hadn’t yet imagined the day that would separate us.

About treacycolbert

I make my living by writing about health care. I've always written about life's chastening effect, but just as a way of sorting it out for myself. After years of doing this and keeping these essays quiet, I decided to put some of these impressions out there on this blog. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think.

9 responses »

  1. I love this story. It made me think about and feel my own journey through childhood and into young adulthood with fondness and a tear or two. Paddington made me remember my Pitiful Pearl doll. How I wish I had kept her! Keep sharing these essays, Treacy. They are evocative and visceral and I, for one, love them.

  2. Oh, I can so relate! There is a little sheepskin blanket called Sheepy that once went with us everywhere, and a stuffed red cat named Dinah…both of which belonged to a little girl (who grew up and left us) and are now stashed forgotten in a closet downstairs. Sigh. It’s all so bittersweet, and it happens so fast. Thank you for being one who eloquently writes about it and makes us feel less alone.

  3. Oh, I felt this one in my gut, too. I have the toys and baby blankets and Legos, still. I wonder if my grandchildren will like them, but they’ll probably want their own lovies, just like we all did.

    So, did he LIKE the man cave you surprised him with?

    • yes, JA. Only the paint was a surprise while he was away during spring break. He chose the furnishings @ IKEA. Now we’ll see whether the cave stays neater than the old room ;-). xxoo

  4. This is beautiful treacy. Dang, why do kids have to grow up? Stories about Christopher calling the housepainters Matisse, or telling stories about how he spent the day at the airport are much more fun than the stories of a fifteen-year-old lugging textbooks around and listening to his ipod.

    Although you could make that story compelling, too.

  5. Treacy, This one has me sitting here with tears in my eyes because of the emotions it stirred. David had a little stuffed dog he named Ruff-Ruff. The dog was given to him by a friend of mine when he was born. Ruff-Ruff went everywhere with David, and I was sure that he would bring him to college with him one day. I envisioned Ruff-Ruff sitting on his dorm room bed which would of course, endear David even more with all the girls. Ruff-Ruff eventually became like the Velveteen Rabbit. His once fluffy “fur” became flat with large areas of it completely worn away exposing Ruff-Ruff’s skin, and he almost became “real”. Ruff-Ruff did not end up going to college with David. In fact, sometime near the beginning of high school, David decided that he wanted to put Ruff-Ruff away in the hatbox where we store the rest of the special keepsakes from his babyhood. That is where Ruff-Ruff remains today, safe and sound. Ironically, when David was 13 and asked for a real dog, the one he picked looks remarkably like Ruff-Ruff; same color and same sweet “soul”.

  6. Oh, I find myself with tears in my eyes reading this. They grow up so fast and truely seem like different people at the different stages of their lives. I loved all of the stages and them as adults but oh, for those days with Paddington and their childhood selves.


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