The Things They Leave Behind


Published in ChicagoNow, January 17, 2014


I recently found part of a love letter written to one of my daughters over 20 years ago when she was in high school. It was at the bottom of a stack of notepaper I was using for shopping lists. Of course, I had to read it to see what it was, right? Then I had to read it a little more, holding my breath that it didn’t reveal things I didn’t really want to know. Thankfully, it was sweet, incomplete, and harmless!


When I told my daughter about it, her first response was to laugh and tell me to throw it away. Upon further consideration, she asked me to hold onto it until she could read it before throwing it away. It made both of us feel good that someone cared for her enough to write this naïve and loving missive. So I went to add it to one of her memory boxes in my basement, when it hit me.


Why is my house still filled with so much stuff my grown children, who have children and homes of their own, left behind? I decided to take a brief inventory of these boxes of things too precious to toss but not special enough for my children to claim. Here is the top 10 list of these treasures:

  1. Childhood books – still useful as I can hold out hope that my grandkids will read and enjoy these someday.

  2. Ceramic and wood-shop creations – really demonstrate a lack of talent but are still beautiful (or useful for holding candy) in my eyes.

  3. Skating costumes, prom dresses, & wedding gowns – much less useful but too sentimental to toss, and a few of them are great dress-up costumes for my granddaughters.

  4. Cards of all types (baseball, football, basketball, Star Wars) – my son encourages me to hang onto these, as they may be priceless.

  5. Dungeons & Dragons stuff – never did understand this obsession, but my son wants me to save it and believes his collection may also be valuable someday.

  6. Barbies and furnished (but somewhat broken) dollhouse – treasures to my grandkids who have never seen Barbies with chopped hair and 70’s outfits that don’t velcro or furnishings that are not plastic.

  7. Board games – my kids were great fans of these and maybe my grandkids will use them someday? (Probably not Trivia Pursuit from the 80’s, though.)

  8. Plaques, trophies, awards – They range from good attendance to skating medals to math trophies to a Presidential Scholars plaque. What mom in her right mind could toss this?

  9. A track letter jacket – so proud she earned it, so expensive, and so rarely worn. Again impossible to let go.

  10. Framed photos of dead pets – Have no place to display pictures of Rocky, Tami, Bertie, B.J., etc. but seems wrong to throw these away.

I really thought these things would leave my house after college, or marriage, or setting up households of their own. There was always a reasonable excuse. Not enough storage space, have to go through it to decide what I want, etc. I should have known my children would never take this stuff.


These are my precious memories of a special time in my life. I loved being a mother and spending time with my children. I’m the one who can’t let go.




by Laurie Levy
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