It Isn’t Easy Being Green

. September 1, 2017.

How many trees died foryour children last year?

In my case, it seemed like an entire forest ended up in my recycling bin a few days after school was done. I might be exaggerating – slightly – but I was astonished at the amount of paper that was discarded by the end of May.

Workbooks, notebooks, loose leaf, projects, handouts – it all added up to a towering pile of paper that overwhelmed my recycling bin. That’s not even counting work that never got handed back, disappearing forever into the school vortex. Or, more likely, into their recycling bin.

I usually keep a box for each kid and throw everything in that box over the course of the year. That way I always know where all the school flotsam and jetsam can be found. At the end of the year, I go through it and keep selected items.

School remembrances

When they were little, I would tuck away handprints, first worksheets and the “getting to know you” packets they filled out every year. Now that they are older we save less exciting items such as anatomy notes, periodic tables and other things that might be handy in the years to come.

I didn’t accumulate nearly as much paper at the end of my school years. When my siblings and I cleaned out my mother’s basement, the three of us found our massive biology notebooks from high school but not much else. I still had my American History notes which, for the record, never came in handy in college, even though I minored in the subject. My brother had two large boxes from college and graduate school. My sister, the music major, had nothing.

We found treasures, however, in my mother’s nightstand. There we uncovered report cards, school programs and homemade Valentine’s Day cards. There was my long ponytail combed into a curl that was sacrificed for a pixie cut in first grade. And none of us could resist trying to fit our adult hand into the Plaster of Paris molds made with our kindergarten hand prints. These keepsakes were rendered all the more special because there were so few of them.

Telling my kids’ story, who they are and who they can be

I probably save too much of the special stuff. I know I overcompensate because, as international adoptees, my children came to us with, literally, only the clothes on their backs. As they’ve gotten older the hand prints have been replaced with report cards, term papers and tests. Boring.

The high school files are now filled with resumes, volunteer hours and transcripts. There is nothing cute about those. They are, however, just as important to telling the story of who my children are and who they can be.

Someday, they will look at those boxes and smile at what was saved – with an eye roll or two, I’m sure.

And, like me, maybe they will take their adult hand and compare it to their little hand print from when they were in kindergarten.