I love going back to my childhood home. I miss my nephews, my brother’s salsa, and my mom’s magic hamper. I also like to treasure hunt.
So we pulled in the drive, I gave my folks cheek kisses and Zach, I talked for eight minutes, and then snuck into the garage.
I brushed off layers of grandpa cologne smelling nostalgia and sifted through boxes of dad’s old coaching trophies and plaques. I found a set of grandpa’s Kem playing cards and my grandma’s 1914 baby book. I ran inside to grab a box for the stuff I was taking back to Wichita. I threw in grandpa’s pens, my old stamp collection, and a bunch of pins with pictures of us playing baseball when we were little.
Mom walked out to see what I was doing. “You should ask your brothers and sister if they want any of that stuff before you take it. It’s so nice to see you.” I grunted in acknowledgement and thought of a plan. Jean was the only one I had to worry about. Jake and Jeff wouldn’t care. I had to trick her, like the way I traded her a My Little Pony for her entire baseball card collection when she was five-and-a-half. I needed to tell her what a good deal she was getting with the stuff I was leaving while making the stuff I wanted seem worthless.
Jean walked out into the garage to give me a hug. “Hi Jim!” she said, squeezing me. “How was your trip.”
“Can you believe that dad still has these rare left-handed golf clubs from the 70s?” I pointed at the clubs. “Or look at this. Be careful because they’re already broken. But grandma made these decorations over 20 years ago! This is something you’ll probably want to pass on to your kids.”
Her oldest son, Jordyn, came out. “Uncle Jim, do you want to play catch?”
“Absolutely,” I said, “go get the gloves.” I slid dad’s baseball glove into my Wichita box. Jordyn brought out a glove for his mom, too. I threw the ball to Jean and casually said, “Those old pins of us playing baseball, they’re so dusty and dirty.”
“Jim,” she said, “take what you want. If I haven’t missed it yet, I’m probably not going to.” And I had free license.
Over the course of the next week, we ate dinner and made salsa. I checked to see if the magic hamper still worked. I put my dirty clothes in and they ended up folded on my bed the next day. We played baseball and Settlers of Catan. We took pictures of the Gutzman moms with their kids.
We visited grandma for birthday 97 and she was thankful yet again that the tenderest, tastiest sandwich, the McRib, came back for her birthday.
And we drank nostalgia with each conversation and meal.
Interspersed, while the grandparents and grandchildren were napping, I snuck off to the garage, the linen closet, or the storage room; dragging along my Wichita box.
I filled it with memories and treasures. I took the Kem cards and my stamp collection. I took the baseball pins and dad’s glove. I grabbed my fourth grade wooden boat for LAUSD’s regatta race and a baseball signed by the 1988 Phoenix Firebirds that Jake and I got during our Labor Day vacation that year. I even took some of grandma’s broken Easter decorations.
Each thing I took held at least one story. Some of the stories I’ve already told. I aim to tell them all. If I have world enough and time, I’ll tell them here. For Kris, Zachman, and you.