Now I find myself emptying pockets again. Every now and then, Emma or Molly has a bit of something in a pocket, but that's rare. Every single day, though, I find a museum worthy load of "stuff" in Harry's pockets. Every day! I find pieces of the earth in various forms. I always find the wrapper from his snack. Sometimes I find money, and on the good days I do return it to him. I find parts of games or bits of plastic that fell off of one riding toy or another. I find little notes with a few words on them. And I ALWAYS find candy wrappers. The oddest thing about the candy wrappers is that I'm never sure where those pieces of candy came from. He giggles when I ask, and then the next day I find more of them.
When I'm on top of things in the housekeeping part of the mother job (this would not be every day) I remember to check the pockets BEFORE I wash the clothes, but that is rare - very rare. I can sometimes remember to get the stuff out when I'm transferring from the washer to the dryer, and the wet drippy items are tons of fun to retrieve. My usual routine, though, is to wait until I'm folding the clothes to find the goodies. Lots of times I have a good time, wondering where he got the objects, what he might have been doing or saying when he stuck the stuff in his pocket. That's what I used to do at the end of a long day, while I was unpacking all of the bags, purses, Kroger sacks, and small suitcases that the girls would pack during the day. I would wonder, "Why did Molly pick up one item from each room of the house to put in one bag?" or "Wonder what Emma was playing when she put the baby doll in the bag and then added a glitter dispenser, a washcloth and a bedroom slipper?" Sometimes that parental investigation can be fun.
The other day I pulled the pocket dwellers out of Harry's pockets on the way to the dryer. They were wet and drippy and kind of gross. I was frustrated about all of the mess and that I can't ever remember to empty them at the start of the whole routine. I was probably muttering to myself, muttering about how I'm always cleaning someone's mess. Then I stopped. I stopped cold.
The face of my sweet friend, Barbara, appeared in my mind. On Saturday, Barbara buried her twenty eight year old son. And then I kept thinking. I kept thinking about all of the people I know who have said goodbye to their children way before it was time, way before those children were through stuffing things and experiences and fun and living into their pockets. I thought about the children I've known and I thought about the ones I've heard about.
And then I thought about a coffee table book again and about how very interesting and sweet this one would be. This one would tell the stories of the days of my sweet child, just like all the rest of them. They might all be stuffing their pockets with different treasures, but it would be fun to see and to wonder about what those little minds were doing and thinking and saying when they decided to tuck something safely into a pocket. It would be a record, a record of the treasures that are special to our children.
And I thought about how those friends who have lost their children would give their lives to 'have to' clean the junk out of the pockets of their sweet children. I thought about what a privilege it is to be the one to see the stuff; nobody else gets to find it, to wonder about it all, to touch little pieces of days spent at school or with friends or poking around in the dirt in the back yard. I get to do that, and I thank God for that. I wish I could give that ability back to the people who lost their pocket-stuffers. I wish I could.
I vowed to enjoy those little pieces of my son, to laugh when I find the strange, unidentifiable parts of his day. I said a prayer for Barbara and for all of the rest of the folks who had to say goodbye too early, and I prayed that I always get to unpack the pockets.
Keep the pockets stuffed, my little Bear. Keep coming back home and I'll look for your treasures or your trash. I don't mind. Bring the little pieces of your days and keep living. You and your sisters and all of your friends and the ones just like you all over the world - the ones who are lucky enough to have a roof over your heads and the ones that pray for something small to eat - all of you, just keep adventuring and experiencing and keep coming home. YOU are the treasures in our pockets.