Throwing away our childhoods


Yes, that's a photo I took of my dad in our rental car with a giant soft toy rhino head! I had that on my bedroom wall since I was a little kid, now we're getting rid of him.

I'm under no illusion that I wasn't extraordinarily lucky to be an expat kid. Most people don't get the opportunity to live overseas, let alone go to school and make friends somewhere else and its an experience I'll carry with me the rest of my life, provided that gypsy was bluffing and I won't be hit by a bus that'll cause retrograde amnesia. In my case, I also learned I preferred living in Singapore to my home country which I may never have realised unless I'd made the trip.

I belabour all this nonsense to put into context my one gripe with growing up as an expat kid, besides not being able to get a reliable source of Tim Tams and having people laugh at me when I say I wear thongs: my childhood isn't in any real tangible form.

What do I mean by that?

Ugh, I hate rhetorial questions, and it's worse when I ask them myself. But I digress; Buddhists and anti-materialists would scoff at such a notion, but to me possessions are tangible proof of our past. Rooms full of stuff are like mini, personalised museums about us. Soft toys we cuddled until they were threadbare, our first love letters (or in my case the first "I really like you" letters I wrote and got rude replies from :P), mugs from weird places, well read books with worn spines, my first computer, posters from old National Geographic magazines with stickers on them, and so on.

I know it sounds shallow and certainly it's not politically correct to admit you love possessions, but I do love some, even if they are useless or have nothing but sentimental value. I'm also a terrible hoarder, but that's for another off-topic post.

Bedrooms and toys and all that

I often hear about people going to visit their parents and how thrilled they are to see their old bedrooms with all the stuff they grew up with and am so jealous I want to make a thick banana milkshake to drown my petty sorrows. Banana in any sort of milkshake is good because it makes it taste creamier without any extra fat. But I digress, again.

Given we moved so many times growing up, any toys or moments both my sister and I had that were deemed even slightly too young for us were thrown away to save costs, or barring that put into a self storage locker.

I'm too tired and couldn't be bothered making one of my classic nostalgia montages, so I'll just add this one from an older post. Some of it has nothing to do with physical possessions, but you get the idea!

90s nostalgia!

Hoping we don’t regret all this

With this latest cleanout we've had to be even more ruthless; entire boxes of children's books, train sets, soft toys and all other aspects of our past have been resealed and sent to charities or recycling centres, and the storage locker which acted like a time capsule was completely emptied and its contents thrown away.

We've saved a small fortune doing this so studiously over the last few weeks, but at the same time I feel sad that we've been so successful at erasing our childhoods. I admit on more than a few occasions I've loved cracking open the Lego boxes and making ridiculous contraptions, or re-reading old fairy tales my mum used to read to me every night before she got sick, or watching Sailor Moon, or playing Magic cards.

Finding old Pokemon cards, Tamagotchis, yoyos, marbles, Tazos and all that… then dumping them. It's necessary, and I don't need any of it, but it still really, really sucks. The Buddhist answer to this would be that the desire for material possessions is causing such sadness. I suppose they're right.

One thing I've vehemently demanded though is that all the achingly beautiful paintings and tapestries my mum made me of stars and rainbows for my bedrooms over the years have been kept. One of these days when I'm a multi billionaire after patenting a new system to hide open zippers on pants to save embarrassment, I'll open a small art museum and put all her stuff in it. While most expat mums were buying their kids expensive toys and art for their rooms, our mum made things for us. She was amazing.

Oh yeah, and I still have my Little Bear and Old Bear soft toys :).

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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