Sticks and Stones

My son, I’ve discovered, is a collector.

Of many things, it turns out. You name it: pennies, marbles, paperclips, anything unusual that happens to be lying on the ground, the odd insect. Woodchips. Stones. Sticks. A lot of sticks.

When he started going to school a couple of years ago, he’d come home with at least one marble every day. He said he just found them, but I was skeptical. After all, how many marbles do you see “just lying around” every day? Sometimes he’d show them to me, and sometimes they’d just turn up in the wash.

I’m a minimalist. I don’t collect. Or, if I do, I eventually get rid of stuff. I have a hard time buying a new pair of jeans without getting rid of an old pair. I’m a bit of a magpie in terms of collecting ideas, thoughts and images, but tangible things – things that turn up in the wash - these are not.

The things he collects will pile up and sit unused. He seems happy to have merely collected them, but he has no further plans for them.

Nor does he want to get rid of them. The other day, I saw that he had holes in his socks and I told him to put them in the garbage (they’re not worth mending... he goes through so many socks... so many!). He looked at me a bit nervously and said he would put them in a garbage can in the washroom downstairs, and not the one right next to him. And then he disappeared.

He didn’t put them in the garbage can in the washroom downstairs, of course, and a few days later I found them, and about 6 other pairs of socks with holes in them, in the bottom of his toy chest.

Why? I asked myself, then, and a few times since. And more often than not the answer “because you’re a minimalist” came flinging back to me. Which I quickly dismissed because I hate acknowledging that any influence I have on his life goes that deep. Not yet, anyway.

Whatever the reason, he’s noticing things that, as we get older, we just glance over, ignore, because they’re “common”, too obvious. Things we get rid of, in one way or another (mentally, physically), to make space for more important things. Like... ? Um... Hmmm.

I love that he comes home with a new marble every day. That he’s building his own cabinet of curiosities. That there’s a pile of sticks on or under his desk that drives me crazy, and that he will vehemently defend. It’s who he’s becoming, who he needs to be. And who am I to stand in the way?