They say certain things can provoke a memory – a song, a familiar place, perhaps even a smell. As I decided once again to attempt the overwhelming job of cleaning out our old, unused toys, I realize why this is such a difficult task for me.

I see the faces of once-loved dolls that now lay in a pile at the bottom of our toy box. I can still see my now-teenage daughters delicately placing them in their strollers and taking them to a tea party, complete with plastic tea cups, saucers and pretend treats.

The ragged stuffed animals that once lined their beds now collect dust on the shelves, each holding a special memory and a worn-out look from the years of intense love. The large box of Barbies, all naked, have their hair in disarray and are missing limbs from years of creative, imaginative play aboard Barbie ships and “dream houses.”

The board games with countless “jewels” and “crowns” hold a special place in my heart as I see my husband, never too manly or macho to sit with a plastic crown on his head and a beaded necklace and earrings, waiting patiently for his next turn.

Oh, and I can’t forget the bin of dress up clothes! Rarely a day went by when Cinderella, Mulan or Snow White was not at our dinner table! The latest Halloween and dance costumes were tossed into the bin and an array of characters always emerged. Even while running errands, my girls were usually in costume. Yes, I would get strange looks as people seemed to wonder, “What kind of mother dresses her kids like that?” I would just smile, nod and think, “Hey, they have an imagination!”

As I now watch small children stare mesmerized at their parents’ iPhones, iPads or video games, I can only hope that their imaginations and personalities are not lost within technology.

As I dug deeper into the toy box, I discovered my own tattered, well-loved doll that I played with as a little girl. I now understand why my mom couldn’t just discard her. The memories of days gone by are too precious to throw away. While I am sometimes saddened that those days are gone, I smile with wonderful thoughts and realize how truly lucky and blessed I am.

I plan on keeping many of these toys, maybe for my grandchildren to play with someday. I can then share stories of how their moms enjoyed those same toys, and we can begin to create new memories together.

As I left the toy room, deciding to dust rather than discard, my hope is that my daughters have learned many lessons from those old, well-loved toys. Important life lessons, such as don’t be afraid to love deeply, even though it may leave you feeling torn and tattered at times.

Share everything and always take turns.

Lose with dignity and never be afraid to express your creative self.

Always use your imagination, the possibilities are endless!

And most important of all, I hope they have learned the value of a man who loves his daughters so much he isn’t afraid to wear a plastic crown.