“I don’t want to throw it away,” he said.
“I’m using that,” added his brother.
The two of them stood amid a pile of items gathered by their mother and me for immediate disposal. The items consisted largely of broken toys, bits of paper, random balls of pet hair, and the occasional paperclip, penny, or well-used band-aid. Their eyes glistened above the dust-laden shine of the freshly swept treasure trove, and they voiced their concerns often and loudly.
“That isn’t garbage!” they squealed in disbelief as they dove into the dumpster of their bedroom floor.
“What if I find the toy?” he said. “I’ll need this!”
“And what about that?” I asked while nodding toward a small bouncing ball that had been chewed in half by one of the dogs. “Why do you need half a bouncing ball?”
“Because I like it!” and this was the answer that became their mantra and applied to everything, for everything was exactly what they liked.
“Do you know what that is?” I asked about whatever this was or that, but they didn’t believe in labels and living life by the definitions of a society that required they part with the occasional thing that they may have once loved, if even for a moment.
“It’s a memory,” one said.
“It’s something to remember,” added the other.
And then we watched an episode of Hoarders.
“Do you want to live like that?” asked their mother.
They did not, and they agreed to part with the pet hair, band-aids, and anything a consensus deemed broken.
“Can’t we give the stuff that works to charity?” asked one.
“Other kids might like it,” added the other.
“Of course,” said their mother. And so we did.
They collected a new layer of clothes too small, toys lacking for attention, and the assorted stuffs of a well-lived childhood. The charity bag doubled the size of the one marked “trash” and we delivered each accordingly.
Something caught my eye as we drove away from the donation center, the lone plastic hand on a broken plastic arm, reaching through the knot of a tied plastic bag. It looked like the last grasp of a drowning man.
“Shouldn’t that arm have been in the trash bag,” I asked.
“No,” replied one son from somewhere in the backseat.
“We found the rest of him,” said the other.
I looked at the bag of treasure my boys had packed for another, the arm poking through just as they had left it, and for one split second between the light and breeze, I thought I saw it waving.
I waved back, just in case.