Several weeks ago, I remodeled my office and then reorganized my belongings. I sorted through items such as baby pictures, stuffed animals, and elementary school yearbooks. My collection of panda figurines is now on proper display, too, along with a prized miniature gold elephant.
Let me tell you the story about one item. My entire life I’ve been fascinated with all things related to teaching and learning. The supervisor at the daycare I went to in the early and mid-1990s had this smiley face stamp that captured my attention.
I asked them where they bought it, and I bought one for myself. Many a time, I have bought something just like I saw others use in classroom settings! I used this stamp when playing school and to decorate cards. I’ve had this self-inking stamp for almost thirty years, and it still works perfectly as if I bought it yesterday. They don’t often make products of such high-quality any more!
This simple stamp reminds me of how much I’ve always enjoyed learning, always been aware of the new and different around me, always been willing to ask questions, always benefited from supportive environments, always wanted to be an educator, and always couldn’t wait to grow up.
Every year of my life so far is preserved through these and other tangible objects, and I have everyday access to these items.
It occurred to me: This is a privilege. The privilege of having childhood memories and artifacts of such preserved.
Fires and floods often prevent people from having such belongings representing their life and thus prevent them from having such experiences externally saved. For others, the cost of cameras proved prohibitive for their childhood guardians. Some have such memories scattered around due to dozens of moves and lost boxes before they were even a teenager. Still, others had such memories stolen from them: Trauma from abuse or major surgery can block memories.
Objects – be they homemade videos or baby clothes or trophies or even, rooms – effectively ‘store’ important, formative memories. For example, I have my grandmother’s paintings, dozens of them, up throughout the house in almost every room. These remind me of her, constantly. I can also come across a forgotten letter and then have a stream of thoughts and refreshed memories.
Certainly, my example of privilege doesn’t exactly parallel able-bodied privilege, class privilege, or white privilege. There aren’t always systemic forces of the Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist (Heteronormative Ableist Theistic) Patriarchy actively making – positive – childhood memories a reality for only some people.
Nonetheless, the privilege framework is accurate. It even brings to mind genealogical research, a privilege that’s denied en masse to descendants of enslaved Africans.
Our society considers people with tangible childhood memories and with prized possessions representing such to be more cultured, to have a greater grasp of who they are and of their family history, and to have an appreciation for and understanding of their place in the world. Others see it as evidence of responsibility and stability if one has memories and belongings representing their life.
This post is republished on Medium.
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