Monday, June 21, 2010

Archival Survival

"Do you have any homework?" I ask my son during dinner. "Just some reading and I have to bring a big bag to school tomorrow." he replies as he reclassifies his baseball cards without skipping a beat. I immediately understand what it is for. As a parent with a child in the fourth grade, I know what is coming home, every piece of art, every project worked on for reports, every worksheet and pop quiz laying in folders and drawers as the teacher prepares to empty the classroom during these final school days.  The classroom turns into a platoon base bugging out for its next duty assignment. "Come on troops, clean out your quarters, and breakdown the mess hall!" "Secure those documents and fill in those latrines, we need to wipe this place clean leaving no traces of our existence!" Its sad to see the classroom return to its pre Labor Day decor, bare and sterile, like the year never happened. All the memories travel home in a big bag, thrown inside in no particular order or purpose. The whole year of discovery, knowledge and growth, delivered to the parents to sift through, parallel to the contents of a time capsule. When the antiquities do make their way home, my wife and I will spread them out on the floor, decipher the clues to form a chronological road map. "This must have been early in the year, look at the handwriting." one would say, while the other picks out the work with other kid's names attached, strays, no doubt. "I remember this, and I recall that!" is heard from both of us while my son glazes over it like a pile of garbage. He does not see it now, but these items are important, they are his educational path, his yellow brick road. Studying the progress made in one school year can be gratifying amid the grind of the everyday. It might be enlightening to see a visual timeline of the past year, the work, the fun, the struggles, and see that smilie face stamp wrapped with the words "Nice Job!"

We will make sense of it all, creating one pile of keepers, and another of items not making the cut. The keepers will be stored in an art portfolio case and slid into storage, like all the previous grades, in a small Smithsonian like ceremony. Someday, we will pull them out and revisit the past, rehashing thoughts about struggles during early learning stages, take the trip though the journey taken, and eventually marvel at the achievements gained.

When we do inventory the items, I will make a mental note to myself, 'Next year, no dioramas or big elaborate set pieces, we have no room to store them.' But I know I will forget that proclamation as early as next fall, just as the new school year starts.


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