If toys could talk, I'd have a troubled conscience

On second thought
Keep or throw?


The final step in clearing my attic for our new homeowners was removing several Rubbermaid tubs of toys that had survived the keep-or-throw process.

In 19 years of accumulating toys, we had thrown very few away. Once the boys outgrew them or stopped playing with them, I simply packed them away — usually during one of those cleaning flurries for last-minute guests.

Because the attic was big, and because I was in a hurry, everything got scooped into a container and got tucked away for later sorting.

“Later” arrived two weeks ago when I found myself seated on the attic floor surrounded by toys sorted in “keep” and “throw” piles.

The keepers were easy. If the memories made me smile, they were keepers.

For example, when Jonathan was born, my college friend Molly mailed us a baby gift that arrived in a square package that contained a gift-wrapped box with a Teddy bear inside.

I remember the details of that moment like it was yesterday. Jonathan, an infant, didn’t care that a gift had arrived, but for me, receiving a rural mail package from a dear friend in St. Paul made my day.

The bear, with a satin blue ribbon tied in a bow around its neck, was enclosed with a handwritten note congratulating us on Jonathan’s arrival. I read that thoughtful message many times over on that sunny afternoon in 1996.

As Jonathan grew and acquired a younger brother, I protected the bear from the rigors of boys’ play.

He joined us for story time in the rocking chair, but he spent a good share of his time safely perched atop the dresser. He didn’t get drooled on, spilled on, or taken outside for adventures in the yard.

And, as such, he’s been well preserved — and definitely a keeper.

Others weren’t so fortunate.

Many stuffed animals are now missing appendages or have matted or stained fur, so those ended up in the throw pile … along with remote control cars missing wheels and the Hot Wheels racetracks missing pieces of track.

Broken toys were no-brainers; they’re garbage. (Trust me, many, many toys were saved as keepers and for Goodwill).

But as I emptied them into the dumpster, I recalled the Disney Pixar animated film, “Toy Story 3.”

When Andy turns 17 and packs his things for college, sheer terror strikes the toys in his room as they come to grips with abandonment.

My heart ached for the toys in the movie that were once lovingly played with and were now being stored or thrown away. (Of course, it helped that movie characters could talk and that the sad music made their story even sadder.)

Now I know how Andy feels.

I avoided eye contact with discarded toys that lay strewn across the top of the garbage in our rural dumpster. Their playful colors created an odd contrast to the garbage they had joined.

I was grateful they couldn’t talk, but I had a hard time ignoring the sad music in my head.

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