Sorting through the mess accumulating in my hallway this morning, I came upon a pile of stuffed animals abandoned in the giveaway box. We keep this box in the hallway outside the kids’ bedrooms so it is conveniently located when they determine that an article of clothing, a book, or a toy are no longer needed in their lives due to physical or emotional growth (and sometimes due to the wax and wane of teenage culture). My ten-year-old rarely contributes anything except for clothing he received for Christmas, so I was surprised to find a collection of once treasured stuffies in the bottom of the box.
I admit that my eyes got misty when I spied the colorful fish amongst the other animals. The fish was my child’s first Webkin. I’m certain that Webkins will someday be what Smurfs are to my generation – a relic that causes a mixture of nostalgia and embarrassment when they appear in present day media or in the back window of someone’s car. My two younger children amassed a sizable collection, which is impressive considering those were the days of dial-up.
Countless habitats and toys were purchased using webkin dollars and even more countless hours were spent waiting for each page to download. The fish lived in luxury and met up with other friends for parties. Maybe I’m the one who was so partial to the fish because he reminded me of The Rainbow Fish, another childhood marker for my kids.
The Webkin fish was what led to the purchase of our first Beta Fish, a bright iridescent blue fish with fancy fins that waved as he toured his tiny hexagonal tank that measured no more than six or seven inches across. His name was Hans (as in Hans Solo) because he lived alone. Hans lived for almost a year, which we soon learned is an eon in Beta Fish years. Several more, less memorable fish followed breaking my child’s heart each time they inevitably went belly up within a few months.
Just this past fall we put the tank away. And so I guess it is only fitting that the Webkin fish would be tossed aside next. It is time to move on to more big kid stuff like travel baseball, minecraft, and overloaded playlists of music I’ve never heard of. I remember reading somewhere that parents wake up each day with new guests in their house. This never seems more apparent than when your child is blurring the lines of child and teen. I’ve always thought the term “tween” sounds more like a candy bar and I think it’s a fuzzy-enough phase to be as fleeting.
As I clean out the box of books also discarded after surviving their third owner, I become even more nostalgic. I find myself sitting cross legged on the living room floor with piles of books around me – these to go to a dear friend with younger children, this pile for the goodwill, this handful of books to be quietly tucked back on a shelf because he couldn’t possibly be finished with them yet, and the last pile to go to the basement to be placed in a large plastic tub labeled “Books to Keep.” When my daughter asks why I’m keeping them I tell her they are for my grandchildren and she crinkles her nose in horror.
I’m trying to treasure each of these final moments as my youngest child reaches them. I celebrated when I pitched his last diaper, but every year that winds down on another stage passed presses on my heart making me long for those days when Barney filled the house with his maddening songs and playdoh was crammed in every crevice. Gretchin Rubin, author of The Happiness Project (recommend), says “the days are long, but the years are short.” These days are not long enough for my heart.