LONG BEFORE I hated the Internet for how it made me view other people, I hated it for reinforcing a dim view of myself. Social media seemed designed to tell me that I have gained too much weight, gotten too old and failed to become the perfect wife/mother/cook/CEO.
The last election, together with multiple mass shootings and the rise of anti-Semitism in the U.S. and abroad, shifted my focus from my ever-jiggly navel and set it, firmly, on everybody else’s shortcomings. I began to behave online the way almost everyone else did: in outraged judgement of others.
But then a “friend” forwarded me an article she had read online that had nothing to do with our current administration or other disasters. This article was about a particularly inspired mother. And now my loathing is, once again, turned inward.
The story featured photographer Melissa Kaseman, who lovingly collects the “treasures” she finds in her preschooler’s pockets, arranges them artistically and photographs them the way an archeologist would an invaluable museum find.
Kaseman published these images in a beautiful photo series titled, “Preschool Pocket Treasures,” telling the Huffington Post that the items her son collects in his pockets are like windows into his developing imagination.
“The magic of childhood is so fleeting, and these objects I kept finding in Calder’s pockets represent a chapter of boyhood, his imagination, and the magic of finding a ‘treasure,’” Kaseman said. “I like the idea of the photographs being a taxonomy report of a child’s imagination, specifically Calder’s. I hope he carries the wonderment of discovery throughout his life.”
- First off, to the friend who sent me this story: I have two words for you, and they rhyme with “duck cough.” I do not lovingly photograph the rocks, strings, buttons and scraps of paper from my children’s pockets. I resentfully remove these object from my lint screen and lecture my kids about mistaking their clothing for trash cans.
This makes me a horrible person and an even worse mother. So, you know, thanks for the reminder.
The only ameliorating factor here is the fact that Kaseman named her kid Calder, which I’m assuming is after artist Alexander Calder, whose work kinda resembles the photographs of his namesake’s pocket treasures. This is good. This shows Kaseman is naturally inclined to have a more appreciative eye for the everyday beauty of mundane objects and therefore mitigates (somewhat) my feelings of inadequacy.
Even so, Kaseman’s art underscores the fact that I view precious little as precious. When my kids are safely tucked in bed at night, I regularly throw out their drawings. At the end of each school year, the papers and homework they’ve amassed in their desk drawers are unceremoniously tossed. I am not sentimental about objects – be it pocket trash or clay handprints (Does it say “Grauman’s Chinese Theatre” outside my house? No? Then why do I need a handprint?).
That is why Kaseman hits a particular nerve. I often believe that in my rush to get my kids through the daily routine, I am rushing them through childhood itself.
Childhood is a tiny pocket of time. Kaseman’s photographs underscore how valuable those pockets would be to examine. I hope her this art inspires my own parenting, at least somewhat. Maybe going forward, I will take more time to appreciate how my kids’ “finds” hint at their emerging world view. I will spend an extra minute examining their drawings.
But then, when I’ve sought out every treasure’s deeper meaning, it’s still going in the trash.
Mayrav Saar is a writer based in Los Angeles.