Monday, February 28, 2011
The Basket – Letting Go
I stood in the middle of the CVS store in front of a half empty Valentine’s display. A few plastic hearts filled with candies and small cardboard heart shaped boxes containing cheap chocolates cluttered the dusty shelves. I stared at the huge yellow sign – ‘75% off’. Wow, I should take advantage of that. At least that is what I thought. I wanted to pinch myself when I realized that I was falling for some pathetic way of thinking. I reached for my cell phone to check the date. Valentine’s Day was two weeks ago. I wondered if my daughter would prefer skittles or M&M’s. Either one is pure crap, loaded with sugar, colors, chemicals to be ingested in an attempt to fill that ever gaping void that seems to threaten to swallow us whole if we aren’t careful. When my children were young, I would go to great lengths to find beautiful, pure, organic treats. Everything was innocent and lovely, fresh and new, hopeful and exciting.
The silent screams of pink, blue and green plastic baskets, wide eyed bunnies and yellow marshmallow chicks pecked into my thoughts. My eyes wandered to the Easter paraphernalia crowding around me in the most obvious way. “Anna, when is Easter?” I asked while feeling how amazingly light the small package of Cadbury Mini Eggs felt in my hand. I imagined resisting the urge to bite into one. I wondered if Jesus would have that same patience if he ate a Cadbury Mini Egg… Ignoring a glimpse of my willingness to give in to the wicked temptation of more crap, I tossed them back onto the pile.
“Some time in April I think.” She twirled a curl around her finger like she has done since it was long enough to reach.
I took pride in never submitting to marketing scams. I taught my family the significance of the act of loving in every day life and that it was practically a mortal sin to dash off to the store to buy a Valentine’s Day card or Mother’s Day card. “It’s just making the card companies rich. We should express our love authentically and celebrate every day in all that we do.”
We spent hours making the most eloquent Valentine’s cards in a Victorian manner. The table and butcher block island in the kitchen would be covered with paper lace, pink and red construction paper, glue, glitter and the previous year’s Victoriana Calendar cut into scraps. We even made the envelopes. Then it was time to bake heart shaped cookies using the healthiest, heartiest ingredients. We celebrated love with family and friends, never weakening or giving in to the pressure to sink our money into the commercialism of the holiday.
I have accepted rocks, dandelions, drawings and unidentifiable things made from pipe cleaners for Mother’s Day. I used to tell my children, “Mother’s Day is every day. It is such a treat for me to kiss your boo-boos, sing lullabies, read bedtime stories and go for walks with you. It is a day for me to be thankful, just like every other day.”
So here I was buying a plastic heart filled with Skittles for my grown daughter in a CVS store. Clearly, I had lost my mind. There is this almost queasy feeling that I get and recently discovered (much to my dismay) that when my children left the nest and then return home…In my almost unconscious desire to hang on, I emerge in the most unusual way. It is awkward and I believe fear driven, especially in regards to my daughter who has chosen the life of a gypsy.
My prayer is to let go with trust and unconditional love. This is perhaps the most vital and difficult time for a mother. It is necessary and possible. The alternative is unthinkable.
Of course this is not the first time I have experienced this phenomenon. When my violinist son gets ready to return to Boston after a visit, I ransack the cupboards and refrigerator to give him whatever I think will be sustaining – a maternal memento.
On my way to the airport to drop off my son the sailor before he left on his first West Pacific Tour, it hit hard. Without warning, I had an incredible longing. As his mother, I felt like I had to do something…anything. I kept looking at him and thinking…wow…at some point in time, he evolved from wearing Batman pajamas with a cape velcroed on his back, to a 6’5” man in a sailor uniform about to navigate a cruise missal destroyer.
It’s the same as when a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly; you can watch it but never really see when it happens. It just does. That day I had to accept that my son didn’t need me anymore, at least not in the same manner. I knew this intellectually, but emotionally it wasn’t happening.
I panicked when I realized that I didn’t have anything to give him. I was relieved when I found a pack of gum in my pocketbook. I offered it to him. He hesitated, and then gladly accepted it. It was comforting for us both.
I used to bring a basket filled with granola bars, fruit snacks and drinks in the jeep when we went to the music school and all of our orchestra rehearsals and such. The basket was always ready, filled and a reminder of mother caring for her children’s needs. I miss that basket. Sometimes it’s difficult to accept that I don’t need it anymore, but it is always there as a reminder and compass and nourishment for the soul, should the need arise.