Common Ground: Unpacking memories for children

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a box that I’d tucked away on a high shelf in the garage.

I opened the box and found parts of my parent’s old wedding scrapbook, a few baby photos, my favorite church dress and a 1984 TV Guide with listings for “The Love Boat” and “Trapper John, M.D.”

Finding these small treasures gave me reason to share my memories of my childhood social scene with my children.

My daughters, ages 11 and 7, were curious to join me in discovering some of the box’s other contents.

When we stumbled on two faded floral dresses with ruffles and lace, my daughters looked at one another and grinned.

“Do you like my dresses? You can wear them if you do,” I told them.

My oldest daughter paused and scrunched her nose.

“Mommy, those look old fashioned,” she told me.

I couldn’t believe her reaction.

“Those were my two favorite church dresses,” I told her.

On particularly special Sunday events, I felt fancy and pretty wearing my lace socks and my black patent leather shoes with my floral dresses.

I certainly never felt “old fashioned” as my daughters’ described.

Moving through other contents of the box, I found miniature glass teapots, a doll wrapped in a handmade dress, my 12th grade report card, my second-grade writing tablet, a photo of me wearing angel wings in a kindergarten play and a check stub from my first paycheck.

“Mommy, you sure keep a lot of stuff,” my 7-year-old told me.

“I do hold on to some of the special things that remind me of growing up,” I answered.

It’s one thing to look at a picture of a special memory, but when I can pull up an artifact — a certificate, a trophy, a notebook or a report card — my children begin to realize that I really was once a child just as they are.

As they thumbed through the 1984 TV Guide, my 7-year-old squealed when she came across a picture of comedian Bill Cosby and a listing for “The Cosby Show.”

“Yes. I watched those shows long ago, too,” I told her.

In another section of the box, I found a fact sheet from 1969, the year I was born.

“Mommy, you’ve been alive that long?” my 7-year-old asked.

In that year, a loaf of bread cost 23 cents and gas about 35 cents a gallon. My children thought I was kidding about that one.

But one day, they, too, will pull an old box off of a shelf and sit down with their children and have this same conversation.

Of course, I can only imagine that one day their daughters will want to know: “Mom, why did you dress so old fashioned?”

I’d love to hear their answers.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.