My husband was frustrated with the amount of clutter and debris piled into our closets and drawers. "Every single thing you open has a bunch of junk in it," he said, disgustedly.
"I mean, just take a look at this drawer," he pulled open a drawer from a small desk in our bedroom. In it was a jumble of old Christmas cards, pens, paper clips, spools of thread, movie ticket stubs, lone game pieces, Music Theory medals and paper awards.
"And what the heck is something like THIS doing here?" he scooped it up and held it in his palm for me to see. "Why do we have ROCKS in our drawers?"
I looked down at the smooth, striped stone in his hand.
"Oh, that's not a rock, that's Stretch!" I said, laughing. "Lauren found him when she was about 7 and named him Stretch because that's what he looks like. He's very special."
Tom looked skeptical. Just to prove my point, I told him to go show Meghan and ask her about it.
I heard their voices from her bedroom.
"Do you know anything about this?" his voice had softened by this time, and I could tell he was showing her the rock.
"STRETCH!" she exclaimed excitedly, the moment he opened his hand. "Wherever did you find him?? I wondered where he was!"
I could hear Meghan tell her dad about how she and Lauren used to love finding rocks. Fat ones, sparkley ones, black ones, skinny ones. But none were are as special as this guy. He was flat, yet rounded and smooth. He fit just perfectly in their little hands. And with his stripes, he practically named himself! Lauren introduced him to me and then set him on the wooden kids' table that sat in our kitchen.
Stretch kicked around as a paper weight for quite some time. For awhile he lived on the window sill above my kitchen sink, and then finally one day he became a member of the junk drawer club. He made the move with us from city to country, having survived numerous rounds of cuts as we purged our belongings down to the essentials and important mementos.
It's really no surprise that he found himself in the company of the medals and awards. I look at those tarnished trophies that celebrate our children's accomplishments, and I have to squint my eyes to recall the ceremonies in which they received them. I can't even remember what most of the certificates were for.
But Stretch, I can remember Stretch.
Holding him in my hand brings a flood of memories. He was from a time of pure innocence, an era of my kids' childhood laughter and play. There were birthday parties and Santa Claus, recess and make-believe. The dress-up clothes were never put away neatly, the kids' table was awash with craft supplies, and there was always some kind of drama with playmates going on. It was such a messy, noisy and crazy time of life. Who would have thought it would be over so soon?
But I look back now, and of all the things we've saved from those years, Stretch holds a certain place of reverence in my mind. His simplicity, his quiet strength, his ability to keep secrets and his knowledge of all that's happened in this family make me treasure him all the more.
When I see him, I envision my beautiful grown daughter as she was at age 7, sparkling with excitement over finding just the right rock.
"See?" she said. "Isn't he just perfect?"
Yes, he still is.