The Music of Kelly Van Shaar

Trash Bag Full of Memory

~ Soft Rock ~ 2015-02-07


Children in the foster care program hang on to whatever they can when all their connections are taken away.

Lyrics

I'm gonna tell you a secret
Something I've been saving for the longest time

Promise me - that you can keep it
This secret - is only yours and mine

This little sack that I brought with me
Is more valuable than anybody knows

It's a trash bag full of memories
Look inside; maybe you'll find me.

These are my special things
These are my special things

(4 bar break)

This is my favorite sweatshirt.
It's just a little small, and it's only got one hole,
And mom bought it brand new, just for me
From a real store - not the salvation army.

This is my pet cat
We can't have a real one because I got sick from that
I tell him all my dreams, and then late at night it seems
When I whisper, He can hear me.

Check this out: You could already be a winner!
Just scratch this off and get a million dollars
Then my mom can buy me back and I can live with her again
'Cause I think she had to sell me to pay back some angry friends

These are my special things
Please don't make me throw them away
If I can keep my things
Then I will be okay.

(The big change - 4 bar break)

This is half a hamburger; A REAL one, from McDonald's.
I only ate half and saved the rest for when mom is with her friends.
Maybe I will take it to school, and the kids will think that I'm so cool
I bet I'll get a ton of friends if I share this with them.

This is a picture of my mom and me, back when we were a family
They won't let me see her but I'll find her when I turn 18.
This is my book of dreams, with all the things I want to be
With all the Disney princesses, 'cuz princesses are happy.

And they all live in Disneyland
It's the happiest place on Earth
Will you take me there?
Can you take me there?

These are my special things
Please don't make me throw them all away
If I can keep my things
Then I will be okay.

(4 bar break)

Just a trash bag full of memories
Look inside; maybe you'll find me.

Just a trash bag full of memories
All that's left of my identity.

Notes / Back story

This song came about as a result of a real experience I had watching a role play scenario during a training program. Danielle and I have been thinking for a while now about the possibility of adopting. Recently we've been attending classes to become licensed as foster parents so that we can be ready when the time comes along, and about a month ago our instructors did a role play where one of them was a girl coming in to a new home as a foster child and the other was the foster mother. As the child would pull out different items from her trash bag of belongings and try to tell the mother what they represented to her, the foster mother would dismiss each item as old, worn out, useless, dirty, germ-infested, etc. and tell the girl how each one should be thrown away and could be easily replaced with something better.


It was heartbreaking to me to get a peek into what these kids go through as they are ripped away from everything they know-- all the connections from which they have derived their identity-- and as they desperately try to hold on to everything they are via memories tied to a few simple belongings carried in a plastic bag, their new foster parents unthinkingly cast these things aside.


I had to leave to film a city council meeting just as this role play was ending, and this gave me a moment alone to let my mind roll over the experience. I broke down and cried, and immediately the chorus to this song came to my mind. When the meeting was over and I returned to class, I made some notes on the items our instructor had brought and what they had represented. Every item I mention in this song is something she used from the role play, along with what she said about it, as near as I could remember. I also threw in a few ideas that I learned from other presentations she made.


On our final week of class (last Monday) I brought in the lyric video and played it for everyone. Our instructor cried a lot and said how important it was that foster parents understand the things in this video. For me, it was one of those perfect times where you work and work on a song with a specific response in mind, and it actually works out like you hoped.


Special thanks to Kienna (who just turned 13) for learning this song and singing it on the recording! She and I worked together to fine-tune the lyrics and change a melody note here and there, which was also very rewarding for me. What a great kid she is!


A few final notes: After playing this song for a few people, I think maybe I should explain a few things. Some will get this but some may not. Realize that this song is done from the girl's point of view. There are many things in these situations that kids don't really understand, so they make up their own reasons to make sense of it. For instance, I'm not really saying that the mother sold her child to pay off her debts. Although in some rare cases that may happen, the point here is that it's easy to imagine how a child might think that. Also, we learned in class that in the majority of cases where children are taken from their parents, the parent or parents were involved in serious, repeated drug abuse. That's why I have the line about the girl being left home with no food while mom is out with her friends, and the other reference to the mom needing to pay back some angry friends.


Then, once you come to understand that this girl has been truly neglected and mistreated, you may ask yourself why the girl still wants to go find her real mom when she turns 18. Well, that's another thing we discussed in class. The relationship between parent and child is an incredibly strong one, and any time it's broken there is going to be a lot of damage to the child. It doesn't matter if the parent was good or bad; our relationships with our parents define us from birth to death, and even if a child is removed from a home for his or her safety, they will usually want to reconnect with their parents if given the opportunity. The child who continues to harbor resentment against a parent into adulthood will usually find themselves broken and unable to develop emotionally until those issues are resolved.


Finally, I hope that people will realize that when the girl whispers to her stuffed animal in the night, and it seems to her that He (notice the capital H) answers, that she is really praying without ever being taught how, and God most definitely is listening, and trying to touch the hearts of others that can come to this girl's aid.

Visitor Comments

Kally from United States ~ 2015-07-08 13:21:48 ~ Beautiful song. You have some talent, of course we've always known that.

Mike from United States ~ 2015-02-22 23:24:52 ~ Another touching song. Nice job Kienna! Really hope you guys get the chance to help some foster kids soon. So sad that parents bad decisions can be so devastating to their kids.

Debbie Adams from United States ~ 2015-02-22 20:07:32 ~ Thank you Kelly for being inspired to write and publish this song. Thank you for explaining how Foster children feel. My heart goes out to them. Thank you Kienna for being a beautiful singer. Sincerely, Deb Adams

Rachel G from United States ~ 2015-02-22 17:57:34 ~ This pulls at my heartstrings. Nice job, Kelly! I especially like the piano part. If I didn't think they were too old to sound like this, I would think it was Cole or Kendall singing. Who is it?? Couldn't be Kienna, could it? Can't believe how the time has flown. I really admire your creativity and the way your music is an expression of your life experiences. Thanks for sharing it with me!

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