Jesse and I spent three days cleaning out the basement so Jesse could use it with his high school friends. It was a huge project, clearing out the cast-offs of two whole childhoods. Pirate hats, one cowboy boot, a space helmet, the game we played with Kathe every day when she was three, trying to get mice safely to a tree before they were eaten by a cat. That doesn’t begin to describe the size of the job: baskets filled with broken balsa wood, collapsed balls, marbles, game chips, tablespoons of dust, hairballs, an old sock, broken calculator. I hadn’t counted on so many souvenirs, from days spent bouncing on the open futon, scarves wrapped around Jesse’s shoulders like a cape, wielding a wooden sword, feathered top hat balancing precariously, feet bare, hair gelled into tiny spikes. I grabbed all of it with ruthless intensity and pushed it into the driveway. Jesse was floppy, hard to engage. I was cranky. You do realize I’m not doing this for myself, right? In the end, we had it broom clean. Jesse and I sat in the big soft chairs we bought at a yard sale. I pictured boys with hands as large as my head, feet bigger than mine, shoulders still slim, voices deepening and cracking,
Later I saw two kids, about five and seven, pawing through the boxes we had left on the sidewalk. They took Indiana Jones’s whip but left the wooden sword and the space helmet; they took the GameBoy and half the dvd’s, including Sinbad and Brother Bear. They took an old ripped duffel bag. As I watched the boy grab the bag, fierce with plans (forts? adventures? running away from home?) I wanted to snatch it back. No, sorry, that one’s not for taking. I let him go, my heart squeezed and sorrowful, sad the way Jesse was sad, draped over the porch, watching his childhood scatter down the sidewalk and disappear.