By Kimberly Witt
Of all of the things from the magical world of Harry Potter I wish were real, the Room of Requirement is at the top of my list. Mostly because I want to build a museum for all of my children’s nostalgic trinkets and trifles, but I don’t have the space in my city house without a guest room.
The other day I was doing some cleaning and organizing, and I came across four pairs of my younger son’s first glasses. There was the browline pair we lovingly refer to as his Malcolm X pair. There were blue frames and gray frames. There was the first pair of clear frames, a middle school fashion hipster choice. I could picture each little face that held each adorable pair, and I wanted to keep them forever.
But I won’t.
While I don’t Marie Kondo everything in my house, I am mostly a minimalist. I hate having things cluttered on my kitchen counters, and more than once a year you’ll find me filling boxes and garbage bags with unwanted items to donate or give away on the neighborhood Buy Nothing page.
However, through the years, intentionally or not, I’ve gotten rid of sentimental items I would love to see at least one more time.
When our sons first joined our family (they were born in Ethiopia and adopted at ages seven and eight), our older son had a favorite navy t-shirt featuring a screen-printed basketball. He loved that t-shirt like I love Reese’s eggs, and when it came out of the drawer, his million-dollar smile stretched across his face. Because I loved to see that joy, I did a load of laundry every day so he could put it on each morning. And when he outgrew it, like some unfeeling robot, I put it in the donation pile.
Now he’s 18 and will soon leave for college, and I would give anything to have it sewn into a quilt or tucked under my pillow.
If this Room of Requirement Childhood Museum was real, my problem would be solved. I would revisit those special items without filling more plastic totes and taking up nonexistent space in my house.
In my magical museum, that t-shirt would be framed and mounted on the wall with every single piece of artwork I heartlessly recycled. Under each masterpiece would be a statement from the artist, explaining, for example, his inspiration and process for that mishmash collage of construction paper he glued together in 1st grade.
The glasses collection would be carefully set up in a display next to outgrown soccer cleats and basketball uniforms. They don’t need to be scrubbed clean; I want to see the grass stains again.
I would have an entire wing dedicated to favorite toys, even the noisy ones. I might accidentally step on a Lego, but it wouldn’t hurt. And even though my son played Bop It! for so many endless hours that I threatened to toss it out the window of our car, in this magical world, “Twist it! Pull it!” would be as soothing as the lullaby of waves on the ocean.
Multimedia exhibits to play Rio, Phineas and Ferb, and each installment of the Madagascar movies would be at the center of my museum. The well-worn red sofa from our previous basement would be there, too, in case visitors wanted to cozy in while Dr. Doofenschmirtz exclaimed “Perry the platypus!”
And because this place is magical, there would also be home videos, even those that never existed. When we first became a family, a friend told me to take lots of video recordings, especially of our boys speaking Amharic together. But of course I didn’t listen. I was too busy feeding everyone and washing the same basketball t-shirt every day. But in my magical museum, I would have all of those recordings, ready to play at my whimsy.
When that made me too sad, though, I would just turn the corner into the dance party wing of the museum.
Here our favorite family jams would play on repeat, all the songs featured in family kitchen dance parties, like Vance Joy’s “Riptide” and “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. When I was ready to bring the mood down again, the playlist would shift to the Beatles’ “Blackbird” or “Hey Jude.” In the background, my children’s tiny voices would pump through the exhibit, singing along with their off-pitch, misquoted lyrics. Because, magic.
This would be a fully-immersive sensory experience, too, so I could smell my small boys with fresh cocoa butter after a bath and hear their giggles from a backyard soccer game. And even though it might not be the sweetest smell, maybe I would catch a whiff of a post-game soccer uniform.
Finished with my nostalgia fix for the day, I would walk out the door and leave it all behind. Whoosh! My storage room would be a storage room again, and my nearly-grown, quick-witted teenage sons would be there to greet me with a mischievous grin and snarky comment.
In the magical gleam in their eyes, I’ll catch a glimpse of those innocent, rambunctious seven and eight year olds. That’s the real magic, not just the Harry Potter kind.
Kimberly Witt is an Iowa transplant placing roots in St. Paul, Minnesota. She enjoys running with her husband, laughing at life’s absurdities, and writing about the miraculous messiness of parenting teens. Connect with her on Twitter and at her website.
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