Whenever I’m at my parents’ house, I set aside time to clean up. My family has had hoarding-like tendencies for many years, so there’s never a shortage of items to declutter, put into order, and (if I’m lucky) throw out or give away after they no longer serve a purpose.
My brother, who lives with my parents, has taken over my room as a space to grow his plants in. It’s now home to a large, black grow tent that occupies the majority of the floor space. I’m alarmed when I open the door — I’m met by the tent’s entrance, which is the same height. It’s impossible to see anything else.
This was the place that I inhabited for just over a decade of my youth. It was here that I went from a child to a young adult, ready to spread my wings and discover what the world had in store for me. This room was the backdrop of many sentimental years and the material items that belonged to them.
In the afternoon hours, my mother mentions that she has moved much of what I had stored in my room into the master bedroom, giving my belongings a temporary resting spot. Odds and ends have been placed into plastic storage bins and a single, oddly-shaped cardboard box.
I come across old disposable camera pictures, various pieces of décor and bottles of perfume that I had nearly forgotten about. I open each one of them, floating in the waves of nostalgia that wash over me as I take in their scents. I pick through picture frames, school supplies, Tamagotchi, cheap jewelry. A collection of CDs with short messages written with Sharpie.
In one of the bins, his drawings have been organized into a couple of shallow piles. I look at them almost every time I’m visiting home. It has taken me years to pare them down, as I’m reluctant to erase any detail of those tender years from my memory. These sketches are a wellspring from which I relive the emotions of my younger self.
I go through the pieces with care, pausing to admire the details of each one before placing it in a keep or toss pile. Some of them are drawn on sheets of notebook paper, accompanied by little love notes and inside jokes in the margins. Others are penned on sketch paper or cardboard.
I arrive at his series of portraits, simple but sophisticated depictions of me. They’re flattering; they made me love the way I looked. There are also silly things — drawings of our old friends, various fictional characters and funny moments from half a lifetime ago.
To this day, I consider the artworks to be some of my most cherished keepsakes. They have both nothing and everything to do with my current life. I place the keep pile in a stationary box covered in pink roses. Its front side contains a space for a label, which I leave blank.