When I was around five years old I started a lint ball collection. I don't remember why. I was weird. My family's house had this carpet that left a lot of lint around so one day I grabbed some of it up and made a tiny ball of the stuff. For fun. It was so much fun in fact that I decided it was the only thing to do ever. When I saw more lint, I would add it to the ball. Sometimes I would just scrape at the carpet to get more lint. When I was at my grandparents house, I was in heaven because their carpet was super shaggy, so I could get 50% more lint in one day. Every time I entered a room, I calculated the lint to carpet ratio and then went to work. This went on for many years. My lint ball grew to enormous proportions. I had to start storing it in a cardboard box to contain it. I would hide it at the top of my closet so no one would steal it. Because obviously if someone robbed our house, the lint ball would be the first thing to go. My precious.
I asked my mom recently if she remembered the lint ball collection and she said solemnly, "You were very serious about it and it meant a lot." It made me picture my mother watching my five year old self clutching a giant lint ball that was probably some sort of health hazard. She was probably wondering what she did wrong.
I do remember thinking it was one of the most important things I could do - to make the largest lint ball. I think maybe it's because deep down I knew that no other child in the world was making a lint ball like mine so it made me feel special.
At some point, I stopped adding things to the lint ball box, which was now really more of a crate that read "Do Not Touch - Michelle's Lint Ball Collection." I don't remember the very last time I added lint to it. I bet I didn't know it would be the last time when I did. It may have been when I got into high school and forgot about the lint ball. I asked my mom if she knew what happened to it. I feared the worst, that it was thrown out. But she whispered after a long pause, "....I think it's still in your closet." She said this as if some wild animal was living in there. Which may well be true because an animal could fit into the center of the lint ball very comfortably.
When I'm home again I will go searching for the lint ball. I want to know that that ball and the child who made it still exist in some way. It represents a time in my life when the simple act of continuously doing something that was important to me was everything. I had a daily task, and that was to collect all of the lint in the world, and by God I was going to do it and I was going to do it well. And at the end of the day, I knew I had done something great.
That weird five year old reminds me that if I just keep picking up some lint every day, every day relentlessly with no excuses, one day I will get the biggest lint ball I ever dreamed of.