The Things They Hoarded



The only things in life more stressful than moving are — in ascending order — illness, divorce, death and helping your parents move hastily out of your childhood home. So, while I empathize with my mom and dad, who are neither ill nor divorced nor dead, I have them to thank for the genetic combination of spontaneity and sentimentality that made their recent move so sanity sucking.

We moved to Harvest Lane when I was 12. Moving in was like going to camp, largely because I was away at camp for the bulk of it, followed by a few Coke-addled nights of eating carryout at a card table. My ambivalence about the place is no less adolescent now than it was then. The pond had no name and the bus had no kids on it. I dubbed it Ben Lake and rode my bike to school, but the neighborhood always felt like anything but. Upon our departure, there were the few farewells but prodigious picking of the pile at the curb. And yet our lawn hosted some of the greatest gatherings — senior class sleep-out, high school graduation party, wedding brunch — each slightly less debauched than the last.

The house is gone but the stuff lugs on. Here are just some of the things I couldn’t bring myself to part with but wasn’t especially eager to sort, schlep and store:

Time Capsule.
I have no recollection of capsuling anything ever. Can’t shake a sneaking suspicion that the hulking Rubbermaid container in the attic was a near-decade-old attempt to avoid cleaning my room. But the note says not to open it until 2014, so time will tell.

Wisdom Teeth.
I saved these in a small bag. Why? I did not then nor do I now have wisdom to spare. Further, the fairy-friendly anticipation of losing my baby teeth years earlier was always dampened by their diminutive size. Wisdom teeth are big. Perhaps someday I’ll fashion them into dice. Or new teeth.

Ben Bear.
My parents interpreted the eponymous stuffed animal as an early sign of my healthy self-esteem. I just thought it was a nice name for a bear. My son is more into his security blanket, which he’s given the doubly narcissistic name “me-me.”

An inspirational Jewish News ad for the third installment of the Teen Mission featuring a picture of me ensconced in the second (see above). I haven’t been back to Israel since but clearly deserve credit for most everyone who has.

Minor Motion Pictures.
During junior and senior year of high school, my friends and I used all the time we saved by not being popular to make two feature-length movies. If memory serves (possibly by helping me misremember), Incarnate and Transgression each opened to sold-out crowds in the Andover theater. Writer-Director-Cameraman-Craft-Services Ben Ketai is making a name for himself in Hollywood — his new show Chosen is a mystery-thriller on Sony’s — so I’m hanging on to all my script drafts, posters and compromising pictures.

Amazing Technicolor Hammock.
I picked this up for pesos on the dollar during our lone trip to San Salvador during a week in the remote village of Ciudad Romero with American Jewish World Service. In spite of my fondness for lying, swaying and netting, I have yet to ham it up.

Grandpa’s Army Coat.
This souvenir is less about the Greatest Generation than the guy who taught me how to play cards and had to go outside to smoke. By then he was a grandfatherly shape — years after his muscle-toned tenure as a welding teacher — but the svelte coat is a reminder of the boy he was when he single-handedly defeated fascism.


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