My husband and I have moved to a new place. We've streamlined. We've cleaned out. Simplified. Gotten rid of a whole boat-load of non-essential "shtuff"!
But high on a shelf in a closet downstairs are hidden away six boxes. There lives the very condensed but real tangible evidence that I once had three little ones who lived with me. Two boxes per child. Very efficient, I think.
There are notes written in kid handwriting thanking me for cooking macaroni and cheese. There are photographs and old guitar strings. There are a few Beanie Babies and thousands of baseball cards. There are programs from concerts, keepsakes from trips. There are old shot records to prove that I was a responsible mother! There are notes written to Santa Claus. There are childhood bibles and all kinds of love notes from the kids to my husband and me and from us to them. And notes to each other. Hysterically funny ones with misspelled words and heartfelt ones apologizing for wrongs against each other. There are cub scout badges and track ribbons. There are notes that Todd and I slipped into their suitcases when they went off to camp.
One thing there "isn't" are baby teeth. I know some people save them, but not me. I can't help it that I find detached teeth--even baby teeth--kind of disgusting. I didn't save locks of hair either. Anyhoo…
Here's the truth of the matter. If it wasn't weird, I would still have all their childhood stuff out and about. I would still have their trophies on my shelves. I would still have those larger than life photos on my walls-- of one of them shooting a basket to set a school record, of another turning a double play in a big tournament, and still another singing on a big stage. No joke, I really would.
But that would be weird. And probably a little pitiful. Even desperate maybe.
So instead, six boxes remembering three childhoods--54 combined years of childhood. Twenty-four years of mothering in my little nest.
These boxes are so dear to me because in every treasure inside, I am somehow woven into the mix. Those things are snapshots of their lives when I was a main character. And I loved it. I loved being a main character in their lives. I loved have a starring role.
And that's what has changed.
Oh I know. It's how things have to go down. It really is.
They had to leave. They had to have experiences and conversations to which I will never be privy. That is, unless a sibling slips up and happens to mention the time the oldest was robbed at knife point one night in Quito. Yeah, so I was never supposed to know that.
They have friends I'll never meet which lead to conversations that go like this.
Me: "Oh hey Sweet Girl! What'cha doing tonight?"
L: "I'm meeting some friends downtown".
Me: "Cool! That sounds like fun. Which friends?"
L: "Oh I don't think you know them", at which time I pause just in case she wants to throw in their names. But no, she doesn't.
Yeah so there are conversations like that.
They have inside jokes that I am not in on. Doctor visits of which I will never know the particulars. They have daily routines that I don't even know. A few of them speak languages I don't understand. Do they bike to work, take the train, drive or walk? I don't know. What is their favorite restaurant? I don't know. They go to weddings I'm not invited to. I don't have a clue how much money is in their bank accounts. I have no idea what they're up to tonight.
Here's the nitty gritty of the matter.
We don't run in the same circles anymore.
Yeah, I know. And here's something else that's even tougher to swallow. There are very likely whole entire days--maybe even several in succession--where (I'm whispering this part slowly for effect) i am not even a thought.
Take a moment if you must, because this is heavy stuff to digest. It's okay to ugly cry here.
I don't write this as "poor pitiful me". I write this as a realist. As in "that's just the way it is". As in, "put on your big-girl high-rise, super-comfy-sensible undies and get on with it". We MAM's are a tough bunch.
On the surface, anyway.
Thank goodness for social media where I am able to get glimpses of the lives my children lead apart from me. However if I peruse my children's lives in this way, there are unspoken rules and boundaries to which I adhere. Be aware. Personally I've found that "liking" about one in every five of their posts is acceptable. You know, without seeming desperate like I'm hanging on their every post or something. Who would do that? If I'm feeling rebellious, I might breach the rules occasionally, but mostly I'm a good MAM.
Another favorite friend of this MAM is my weather app. Currently I can tell you the weather in the following cities: Ann Arbor, Berlin, Oslo, Austin, Nashville, Durham, Marfa, Alta, New York, Dallas, Navasota, Hong Kong, San Marcos, LaGrange, Driftwood and Waco. These are places my adult children live, have lived, work, have worked, vacationed, or had a long layover. If I know little else of what they are doing in these places, I always know the weather!
What can I say? The habit of mothering is a hard one to break.
I still never wants to miss a single thing. When they tell me about new and exciting things in their lives I will always wish I could've been there to see their faces. To applaud them. To hug them. I will always wish I could know the adult versions of them as well as I know the child versions.
As I look on from a distance, though, I'm beginning to see something else. I see that as I now stand in the back of the cheering section, others have come close to them. A wife. A fiancé. A community of friends. It happened so seamlessly that there was never even a gap or a void in their lives. And in some strange way, there is a great peace and even relief in that for me. From where I stand now, the most important role of mothering is praying and giving breathing room. I hope to do that well.
Back to the boxes.
If I'm being honest, these boxes are way more special to me than to them. To think one day they'll want what is in them is wishful thinking. Oh one day they'll look through them and laugh and be nostalgic for a bit, but these remnants of their childhood likely won't tug at their hearts like they do mine. No matter how much I want them to, I'm fairly certain they won't. That's okay.
They've moved on. They are still who they were, but with new wonderful layers that they added all on their own with no help from me.
They are filling their own boxes. It is as it should be.
As I'm about to enjoy my 30th Mother's Day I find myself reading something I wrote some years ago. And it is this:
Let me take this moment to raise a glass to three of the most wonderful humans walking this planet. I'm happy to know you. You've taught me everything that really matters. This and most every other happy day is/was brought to me by you three.
The three who call me Mom.
Now excuse me while I check the weather.