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Don't call it junk; it's filled with memories

It's time for the umpteen boxes of Christmas decorations to come down from the attic, and the never-ending do-it-yourself woodworking stint is already cramming the garage - what with the long strips of molding, the new Craftsman Compound Miter Saw and that spiffy nail gun, complete with the shiny orange compressor that's crowding the old Harley Panhead.

So now it's time to discuss the fate of the toy box - again. The old wooden chest that should have been tossed years ago is taking up some of Hubby's valuable space, and he'd like to see it gone.

But not so fast. I have an affinity for that roll-top chest that came for Christmas all those years ago when Fisher-Price ruled the roost.

It's not that it's all that sturdy, though the corrugated cardboard bottom has held up miraculously through four kids and about 22 years of use. So has the throw-back New England Patriots sticker plastered on the front by 4-year-old hands back in 1986.

Over the years, that toy box was the spot to toss He-Man, the Ninja Turtles, Barbie and her accessories, the pink plastic tea set and Polly Pocket.

Later, when the youngest outgrew such things, we moved it to the garage where it became the perfect place to stash hockey equipment.

We filled its belly with sticks, skates and bright orange pucks meant for shooting slap shots on the street or at the roller rink, where the oldest played goalie. Hubby coached back then, before his hair turned salt and pepper and we affectionately dubbed him "the old man."

For a time, the box held basketballs, soccer balls, tennis rackets and all that baseball equipment the old man picked up at a local yard sale.

Then there was the beach and pool paraphernalia stage in the new house. After a time, the old man found a better way to store that stuff and started suggesting that it was time for the box to go. I balked, and he found another use for it: The leaf blower and lawn edger had a new home. Until recently.

It was straightening-up time in the old man's domain, and so he called me out there to once again plead his case.

I know he's right. After all, I'm the one who's always cleaning out closets and encouraging the kids to sort through their own outgrown things so they can pass them on to those less fortunate.

But sadly, the toy box is unworthy of being passed on. It's beaten up and broken in spots, the roll top won't roll down anymore and there are paint dollops from when we painted our walls antique white in that place we were renting a few years back.

"Go ahead," I tell the old man. "Break it up and throw it in the trash. But I don't want to see it."

A while later, he called me to the garage to show me his progress, pleased as punch with the semispaciousness he's accomplished.

I give him an "Atta boy" and head back inside to tend to my own domain. "But wait, you haven't seen the best part," he said, directing my attention above.

There, high atop a cabinet sits the toy box. It's laid on its back side now and filled with an assortment of random stuff - hamster bedding, a big roll of plastic sheeting, packing peanuts and boxes I've saved for shipping gifts north this month.

Pleased as punch I am. I have an affinity for that old toy box. And the old man, too.

Michele Miller can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6251, toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6251, or at miller@sptimes.com.

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