As I’ve gradually combed through the various boxes of childhood detritus in my parents’ basement, I can’t help concluding that I was somewhat of a hoarder in the 90s. Put more charitably, a collector. I have a collection of dolls from various countries I visited with my family, and some of them are really quite nice. I have a collection of foreign currency, much of which is no longer in circulation (lots of French francs and centimes, for example). I have a collection of clothes for my collection of American Girl dolls (5, in total) and a collection of hangers for those clothes that were rarely used for their intended purpose. I also have scraps of ribbon, strips of washcloths, patches of the yellow curtains that used to hang in our house decades ago. I wouldn’t let my mom throw these things away, because I always had a future use for them in mind. I did make a few doll bathrobes with strips of washcloth and doll dresses from patches of curtain, but much of this junk (and boy did I hate it when Mom called it that) just stayed in a big Rubbermaid bin under my bed for…yes, decades at this point.
Luckily, my tendencies in my 30s lean more towards getting rid of things and acquiring as few new things as possible. It wasn’t hard to make sweeping decisions about which Rubbermaid bins and their contents would be tossed/recycled wholesale. I donated about seven trash bags and shopping bags filled with stuffed animals to charity - animals to which, at one point, I was so attached that I could not bear to banish a single one from my twin-sized bed. I would sooner crowd my own self out than exclude even a single teddy bear, lest his or her feelings be hurt. I fully remember how my chest would well up with sadness at the mere thought of a single stuffed animal’s emotional wounds. It was gratifying to learn that as an adult I no longer experience these feelings with regard to inanimate objects (people, on the other hand…).
The dolls are all safely in my own basement now, and I have plans to slowly bequeath them to my daughter over the coming years. It’s actually a lovely collection, unlike most things I coveted as a child. Pogs, in retrospect, were complete garbage which I know I only amassed for the social capital they afforded me, in the form of Pog-contest playdates. That’s a whole other blog post. Garbage collections, luckily, aren’t that hard to dispose of without regrets. The one collection I could not easily decide what to do with, however, was my collection of Beanie Babies. Yes, we’re talking the OG (original gansta) beanie babies from the late 1990s, made by Ty Warner and massively popularized by the fact that children of a certain age (namely, my own exact age at that time) love to acquire stuff. I was as acquisitive as they come. Once I had one beanie baby I wanted two and once I had two I wanted five, and so on. Beanie baby acquisition was the destination of all my allowance from 1997-1999. I thought I would be embarrassed upon opening the huge trash bag full of beanies that awaited me in the basement, but I was surprised to find that I could totally relate to my 11-year-old self’s insatiable desire to possess these things. They’re genuinely cute and cuddly. They’re also the perfect size and weight…I don’t know how to describe it other than to say that they just feel good to hold in your hand. What’s more, they pose beautifully together. They can compose a scene like no one’s business. And you can fit a whole lot of them in your bed with you.
Knowing they’d be there with all the other junk, I had planned to drop them off at Goodwill with all the rest, but once I looked at them and handled a few, something held me up. It wasn’t that I still loved them the way I did in 1997; it was that I remembered, vividly, the love I’d once felt. Those beanies deserved love after all these years in a trash bag, and there was no question that I was no longer the one to give it to them, but much like my 11-year-old self, I struggled with the thought of sending them away with no knowledge of what end they might come to. I didn’t just struggle; I was sad about it.
While I declined to make a decision about the beanie babies right away, their perfect home then made itself instantly apparent. Discussing favorite childhood toys with some family friends, I casually mentioned that I’d collected an embarrassing number of beanie babies that I now didn’t know what to do with. The kids (aged 6, 9 and 11) immediately perked up - amazingly, people still talk about the OG Beanie Babies in 2018, and they were eager to know which ones I’d had, how many there were, and without even having to think about it, I asked, “do you want them?” I could tell by the exuberance (and slight disbelief) in their “YES!” that they were the exact right people to take over the care of these creatures.
Few things this year have given me more joy than to watch the kids tear into the trash bag a couple of weeks later and lovingly examine the beanie babies for the next two hours. Part of me relived my own joy and happiness from the years when they were mine, and another part of me wanted nothing more than for this particular hoard of toys to be in the hands of these kids and out of my own. I hope they have many more years’ worth of happiness to give.