From the scrap bin to a mosaic of us

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

I spent Father's Day afternoon with my son. Nothing fancy, a movie and dinner. Going to movies is one of the things we've always enjoyed doing together. Simple and relaxing. I wish I had a list of everything we've seen over the years.

And that reminded me of a column I wrote for his birthday back in 2001:

I save scraps. Bits and pieces of the past. It's the archivist in me. I don't really qualify as a pack rat. A representative sample is all that's really needed.

I keep my past in manila envelopes, stored in an old cedar chest, which is itself a piece of my past, having been salvaged from my parents' house, my boyhood home, when they moved out a few years ago.

My apartment now is filled with totems — to remind me where I came from. I believe, as Native Americans did, that such items carry a certain power, which is to say they empower us by keeping our heritage alive.

The past also has the power to propel us into the future, which is why I started sifting through my scraps recently — so I could give Dylan his past as a birthday present.

He's on the cusp of manhood and has accumulated more personal history than he thinks. At any rate, I've accumulated more of his personal history than he realizes. All along I've been saving scraps of our shared life together, tossing them into shoeboxes and folders and envelopes, figuring someday, who knows? Savers always imagine creating a museum of the past — if they ever find the time.

That day has arrived. He needs his past right now, which is why I'm giving him pieces of it, in a scrapbook, in the hopes it will sustain him, even propel him, into the future.

It begins with the family tree he put together in junior high.

I still have the ticket stub from the Cub game on Aug. 1, 1984. He was only five months old, but we were there the day the Cubs took over first place and never relinquished it. That was a magical year.

I have a note he penciled to the tooth fairy, which helpfully directs the spright to "please leave tooth here, but give money."

I have the list of all his Halloween costumes from 1984, when he was a Mariachi, to 1996, when he was a SWAT team commando.

I have notes I took of the table conversation at one of his early birthday parties, when he and his friends explored such weighty topics as "How do Ninja Turtles eat and hold weapons with only two fingers and a thumb?"

I also recorded a snippet of his toddler talk: "I want to do something actional," he told me, "but not tireding."

There are drawings and birthday cards with his "Dylanmark" postscript at the end of each for trademark purposes. There are brochures from the Field of Dreams in Iowa and the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, remnants of past vacation trips we took, including the map of the bike path around Mackinac Island, where he left me in the dust and made me realize he was getting older — and so was I.

So many pieces, so much time ... so little time to savor it. A mosaic of our life together. You need that once in awhile, when your life feels fragmented or fractured or even shattered. Those pieces strewn at your feet can be pieced together to take on a new form. They are part of the whole that no one can take from us because it is who we were ... which eventually makes us who we are and will be.

In the 12 years since that column, I have filled a decent-sized box with more mementos from our past, so he can probably piece together a good list of the films we've seen together. Someday after I'm gone, he'll be able to take a pretty interesting trip through the gallery of his life.

And put together a mosaic of us.


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