I am having one of those “cramming for the exam” moments. My parents are coming to visit tomorrow, and even though I know they don’t care, I always want my chaos to look just a little more organized when they arrive. My mom is a grade school teacher. Her organization skills are incredible. Somehow I missed out on that gene.

I try. But I can never really contain the little things that clutter up our kitchen counter: unfinished Valentine cards, lip balm, school papers and barrettes.

When sorting through the endless papers and pieces of artwork that land on that counter, I eventually have to decide which things are too precious to pitch. That pile migrates to my dresser, and eventually when I get on a de-cluttering kick (or when my parents are about to visit) I move those piles into the three plastic bins under my bed – one for each child.

Today, it should have been simple enough to shove a few report cards, pieces of artwork and Santa letters into that bin during my pre-parent-visit cleaning frenzy. But I couldn’t stop myself from sneaking a peek at some of the contents and getting a little misty: Calvin’s red-striped t-shirt he used to wear all the time to look like his cartoon alter ego from Calvin and Hobbes; Daisy’s first Christmas dress, all red and ruffly; Clara’s huge stack of colorful love notes, covered with rainbows, peace signs, butterflies, and messages like “You aer th best Mom evr.”

As I rifled through the report cards and precious items I couldn’t help picture my kids as young adults going through these bins with their significant others, the same way Ian and I pored through a box of his childhood memories as we were falling in love. “Look, here’s the little white sundress I was wearing in that great photo where I’m running through the grass – look at my chubby knees!” I can see Clara telling some young man, some day.

Maybe someday their kids – my grandkids – will get a kick out of looking through those treasures, the same way my kids like leafing through the memory book my mom kept for me.

My mind spins as I look at the bins.

Maybe I have been throwing away too much.

Maybe I hold onto too much.

Maybe I should do a better job organizing it all. Maybe I saved way more for the first child than the third (oh, guilt!) If you have an amazing, fool-proof memory preserving system you can share with me, I am all ears!

But maybe – probably, I think – I am okay with spending less time organizing those memories, and spending more time making new ones.

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