This past week, my wife and I have been going through the house getting rid of old stuff. She enjoys freeing up space and seeing the house clean. I enjoy looking at my old stuff, reliving all the good times we had together, and almost weeping when I throw any of it away. To be honest, it’s hell. Some of it makes sense to keep. Old favorite toys, comics from my childhood, a Wico bat handle joystick the quality of which has never been seen again in any controller since. However, I must question the need to keep mail order catalogs from computer companies so someday in the future I could remember how much a parallel port printer cost back in the day. Yes, that was my logic back in 1991. No, the experience did not live up to the hype.
Part of me is glad I saved some of these toys so that my son could play with them. However, forces I was not prepared for have been in play this entire time, and may utterly ruin this plan. Did you know that old plastic gets brittle? Neither did poor Shockwave when I accidentally amputated his arm trying to transform him for old time’s sake. Fortunately, it was not his blaster arm. Unfortunately, back then I didn’t know that batteries corrode and blow up and ruin electronics. Shockwave is not particularly pleased with me right now.
Worst of all is the stuff that has sentimental value but I just can’t think of a legitimate reason to keep. I have two large boxes filled to the brim with all my old AD&D 1st Edition books from high school. It’s quite heavy. Just cracking the lid on that box brings back memories of ridiculously overpowered Monty Haul campaigns and my power-levelled Fighter/Cleric/Mage soloing the Elemental Princes of Evil from the Fiend Folio. I used to walk with a hunch because I was always carrying 100 pounds of books with me. I got into a shouting match with a friend over his claim that getting hit in the face with a black dragon’s breath weapon would give him a CHA bonus because the scars made him look tougher. I was thirteen years old, it was intensely stupid, and I loved every minute of it. However, as much as I love keeping them around, I continue to acquire gaming stuff and I don’t really have the space to make the Ultimate D&D Room. I also find it unlikely that I will ever play in a D&D 1E campaign ever again. Do I really want to keep them around just to flip through the pages now and then?
Old videogame systems are my other problem. I’ve got nearly every major console since 1980 sitting on a shelf and no intention whatsoever of actually hooking any of them up. Are they decorative now? is that lame? With the advent of emulation during the mid 90’s (and now widespread legal emulation), I can play almost everything I ever want from my childhood without having to keep a giant rat’s nest of RF adapters and controller cords in a box somewhere. It’s not exactly the same, but I’m not sure it ever can be. That, for better or worse, seems to be the conclusion leading me to finally get rid of a lot of my old stuff. The memories will always remain and be perfect. Keeping this stuff might spark an odd memory here and there, but it’s taking up room that could be used for new memories.
There is an old proverb (which I have failed utterly at finding) that says a boy becomes a man when he can leave his toys behind. Does this mean that finally, at 34, I’m growing up? I have no idea. What I do know: my wife is getting happier by the day, and some day in the near future a nerd’s going to walk into a Goodwill and wind up renting a U-Haul to get it all home. The cycle begins anew.