When you’re in a lockdown/shelter-in-place/social distance situation, might as well go through some stuff in storage, right?
I did that the other night. Went through a few boxes of things I thought I’d never throw away. But I decided that now, whether it’s the virus talking or simply time having changed my mind, is the time to start getting rid of some priceless items that were, until now, untouchable.
My box of trophies from hockey tournaments was a tough one. They were always sacred in my mind. Who would ever get rid of such tangible reminders of the glory of their youth? They scream out “I was there! We were great! it was exhilarating!” Well, apparently I would. And did.
I had a bunch. Mostly hockey and baseball. First place trophy from the Burnsville hockey tournament from 1983. Second place in the Prosperity Heights baseball tournament in 1981. A few dozen others. Pins, too, including ones from our annual trips to hockey tournaments in Canada. There were medals, tournament programs (including some in which my dad had filled in the blank bracket spots to mark our team’s progress). There were a lot of buttons, including some where I’m striking the iconic youth hockey photo pose — full uniform, no helmet, on the ice in front of the goal, both hands on the stick, ready for a faceoff, eyes locked on the camera.
My mother wore those buttons to my hockey games. All the hockey moms did. From my spot on the bench I can remember looking around the arena for my parents. Dad would be with the other dads watching, I assumed, intently. Mom, button affixed to the front of her coat, would be gathered with the other moms. At the time I probably thought both groups were talking about the game. Now I know they were probably talking about dead-end jobs and crappy cars and how crazy their kids were.
But those buttons, like the trophies, got the boot. So did the tournament programs, the mimeographed hockey schedules my mom would stick to the side of the fridge with magnets, the Canadian pins, medals with my name etched on the back, newspaper clippings of the Eastsider newspaper showing me and my teammates meeting the St. Paul City Council, and the personal note from council member Ron Maddox.
You know, memories are funny things. I’ve got a lot of them. They’ve, in fact, fueled some of the best things I’ve had to say in this column over the years (or some of the worst, depending on your perspective).
The relationship between objects and memories can be a strong one. That’s the reason we keep things like trophies. It helps transport us back in our minds to a specific time. A trophy — a miniature figurine of a hockey player, a tiny nameplate with a tournament name, a year, an accomplishment — is like evidence that there was a moment in our lives when nothing else mattered and we were living life with the pedal to the metal. “Burnsville Tournament, Bantam A, First Place.”
I was there. We were great, it was exhilarating
But … I didn’t need a trophy to tell me that. The tournament program with my dad’s writing inside was nice, but I didn’t need it to remind me how warm his smile was. The medal with my name and stats (goals, assists) is cute, but I don’t need the etching to remind me I scored 17 goals that year.
Everything I need to know about those days remains right here (you can't see me right now, but imagine me, eyes misty, pounding my chest with my fist).
I wonder what we’ll remember about this pandemic? Who knows. But here’s my hope for you all:
I hope when we’re through this and on to happier times, you think back to the COVID-19 era and remember the epic game of Monopoly you played with your kids.
Or the Harry Potter movie marathon with Twizzlers, ice cream and microwave popcorn.
Or how you finally learned to knit or taught your dog how to roll over.
Or how you cleaned out your garage and found your old baseball mitt, the one you used to turn that double play in the final inning of game two of a doubleheader on the hottest day of the summer, and then used that mitt to play catch with your kid.
Or how you gave the living room a fresh coat of paint that really brightened up the place, or turned an underused room into a snazzy home office.
There’s a saying in politics: Never let a good crisis go to waste.
You guys, use this time for more than bingeing Netflix shows. Create memories, the kind you won’t need a trophy to remember, the kind that will make you say "I was there, we were great, it was exhilarating."
Robb Murray can be reached, for a few more weeks, at (507) 344-6386 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Robb on Twitter @KatoRobb.