About a week ago, Kalista gave her room some “wallpaper.” I know this because that’s when the night was that she led me by the hand from the living room to see it.
“Look Daddy,” she said. “I put up wall paper.”
She was right. Half a dozen or so 4-by-6-inch sheets of scratch paper (fluorescent-colored, of course) hung in columns and rows, complementing squares and rectangles of Styrofoam that had come as packaging in a new appliance box. Each customized tile had some element of hand-drawn loveliness only she could put out: my favorite was the square of Styrofoam that read “I love Daddy” with a small red heart below.
“I put pushpins around the edges,” she said with a grin when I told her so.
Well, Friday – a week later, as I said – we were in her bedroom tying her sneakers for school when she asked if I liked the “wallpaper,” which still hung with pride. I told her I did without looking up from her shoe.
“I used glue to put it up,” she informed me like a grocery store tabloid.
I stopped tying her shoe, slowly turned to see the décor and realized – all too painfully – I needed to start checking these things when she does them. Nothing like glue to mess up a perfectly good bedroom wall, painted roughly 6 months ago.
Getting glue off the wall without taking paint with it aside, the predicament demonstrates one of the toughest I’ve faced as a parent. Including her homemade tiles, I’ve been given somewhere in the neighborhood of 463 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) works of art produced by my little girl. Some have gone into archive – I even own products manufactured specifically for this purpose – while others have eventually made their way into the trash.
Earlier today she stuck three nickel-sized balls of Play Doh to a sheet of notebook paper and presented it to me as something she “made” for me. The child is 5 now – I’ve seen what she makes in school and know what she is capable of. Obviously, wads of Play Doh stuck to a sheet of paper is just that: wads of Play Doh stuck to a sheet of paper and nothing more. It’s no work of art.
Still I found myself hesitant to do anything but smile, thank her and sit it on the nearby kitchen counter. Fifteen minutes later when she wasn’t in the room, I pushed it to the back so it was out of the way. And finally, during my nightly routine of cleaning up the place, I put the Play Doh back into its can and threw the paper in the garbage.
I did not do so without hesitation, though.
This situation is not something I need suggestions on; it’s one with possible responses I’m well aware of. For years I’ve maintained a certain hierarchy of Kalista’s works, determining whether they end up on display before entering the vault or in the garbage can. I’ve always wished I could keep them all.
But of those I’ve retained – mostly in an old family heirloom of a wooden chest on my bedroom floor – over the years, they bring a wonderful feeling of nostalgia. I can remember how old she was when she made them, what she said and the look on her face as she handed a certain piece to me and how – precisely, vividly – it made me feel. I’d be lying if I said looking through this chest of masterpieces has never brought a tear to my eye.
So I am glad I do make these difficult decisions when it comes to Kalista’s work. For if I did not, these specific memories would be impossible to keep straight.
But that doesn’t make the choice any easier when it comes my way.