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I have a partial, hand-written manuscript in my upstairs closet. It’s in a battered briefcase, along with a typed, complete MS that’s not too bad, actually. Those manuscripts are examples of what I was writing in May 1969 and June 1970.

And earlier. Nine hand-written pages, torn from a spiral notebook, are folded and shoved into one of the pockets. It’s an outline, and I read about characters I barely remember. The scribbled date is October 15, 1951. I was twenty years old.

That closet is a time capsule. Sleeping bags, book bags, bags filled with neatly folded bell bottoms and faded T-shirts from various Little League teams. Hot pants. School uniforms. A polyester prom dress. The shelves hold games, Monopoly and Scrabble, and cardboard boxes labeled in faded black marker. “Costumes,” proclaims one label, evoking memories of past Halloweens and school plays.

My three grown children each have a box. Inside are baptismal certificates, immunization records, report cards, bulky school notebooks. A small, tan, misshapen cowboy hat.

My older daughter wrote me twelve letters from Germany the summer she was seventeen. My second daughter wrote about her red-eared turtle when she was in first grade. “I like to think about his ears,” is one unforgettable line. My son wrote a short story but wouldn’t show it to his eighth-grade teacher, and there is the copy of a song he wrote when he was eleven. A ribbon he won playing tennis. The tassel from his high school graduation cap.

One box sits on the floor. Three feet square, heaped with toys, a graveyard for Fisher-Price, Mattel and Hasbro. Raggedy Ann is a little ragged but Tiny Tears still cries. Several Barbie dolls lie abandoned with perfect limbs askew. A tiny suitcase is stuffed with clothes for Barbie and Ken, who is sadly missing. Chatty Kathy still chats. Cars, trucks, a big yellow backhoe. A 1963 Easy Bake Oven from Kenner. Lincoln Logs in the original round box and a million loose Tinkertoys. A wooden lawn mower with a raucous bell and an elephant pull toy. Drag the elephant along and he bangs a drum. Loudly. My son’s helicopter would fly if it had batteries. Two huge warriors, fists cocked, stand ready to do battle on a plastic platform that simulates a boxing ring. When a fighter got hit, his spring-loaded head flew off. Toys ad infinitum.

Occasionally, when my daughters are visiting, we look in that closet and get lost among the relics. We laugh and cry and have the best time.

We pull everything but the toys out, scattering boxes up and down the hall and spilling their contents all over the middle bedroom. Grown grandkids sometimes drive over to join in the memory-fest, which can last a week.

If some stranger unwisely asks, “Do you ever throw anything away?”

My answer is a hard look and a snort. “Are you crazy? Of course not!”

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