When my youngest daughter turned 9, she told me she wanted to replace the poster of puppies-in-sneakers on her bedroom wall. When I asked what would be on next poster, she replied: “Usher, of course! Do you even know me?”
As her stay-at-home father for many years, I actually knew her quite well, or so I thought. But as we thumbed through posters at a music store, her words surprised me again: “When I get it, I want to put red crayon on his lips so I can kiss him all day!”
Whoa. Hello, tweenhood and another milestone.
Flash forward a few years to our new house. Now my youngest’s teen bedroom is decorated mostly with photos of her friends and classmates. She decided she would take a break from her Usher-Bieber-Gaga-type decorations.
Little does she know, however, that I moved Usher to her Hall of Fame.
When our children were quite young, my wife and I faced a common predicament for parents: what to do with all the stuff kids accumulate — e.g., toys, clothes, stuffed animals, art projects, etc. While much needed to be sold, given away or trashed, it seemed a shame to let it all go. So we developed what I call my children’s Hall of Fame: a few plastic bins filled with sentimental items from their earliest years and milestone markers from their later years. Each item narrates a story practically by itself.
Some Hall highlights include a tie-dye onesie, a worn copy of Alona Frankel’s Once Upon a Potty, and the tiniest princess shoes in the world. Such items will be fun to find again in 10, 20 or 30 years — either by me or by my two daughters. During my most recent visit to the Hall, I laughed anew at an extremely short story that my oldest daughter once scribbled down: “I was an only child once. Everything was fine. I loved it!”
Don’t let family memories succumb to digital oblivion
The Hall of Fame has become our family’s form of resistance to our high-tech, disposable culture. Since my parenthood stretches back to pre-iPhone days, I know firsthand how many fewer photos I actually printed out from my phone vs. my camera. That’s why I urge all parents of young children to make sure their family memories don’t stay lodged in phones that will soon be scrapped or in clouds that never rain down any actual photos. Don’t settle for iPhone “wallpaper” that is sure to disappear. Print out your valuable photos and save your most cherished family possessions, including some of your children’s bedroom wall decorations from over the years.
My favorite wall art from my children’s later years came from an unlikely source: caricature artists. On one of our family trips, we discovered how fun it can be to have a caricature drawn — whether of just the kids or of the whole family. The artistic process is sublime, especially in our fast-paced culture of hurried selfies in front of touristy spots. Time slows down as you chat with the artist, watch the handcrafted image emerge, and enjoy everyone’s reaction upon seeing their finished portrait.
We now have a collection of caricatures from our family trips. Each carries with it the warm memories that accompanied its creation. When we look at each caricature, we share the same wallpaper of the mind that can’t be torn down, forgotten or moved to a cloud. Such irreplaceable items belong in a Hall of Fame.