And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Every now and then, it’s like a certain place or thing in my home has a spotlight thrown on it from my own mind, and it looms in front of me and behind me and beside me, moaning, “Cleeeeeaaaan meeeeee! Cleeeeaaan meeeeee!” It becomes the Heart of Darkness in my home and psyche. The horror! The horror!
Lately, I’ve been haunted by the credenza in my office. The credenza itself, I love. I found it in an antique mall shortly after moving in here. One of its doors doesn’t quite close, so I have to bolster it with some folded cardboard, but I find it beautiful. I also find it as my personal black hole. If I don’t know where to put something, it goes in the credenza. My dream of having it hold all my office supplies has long since disappeared as it holds a lot more than that.
So I had a four-day weekend this last week, and I decided it would be the weekend that I cleaned the credenza. On Friday, I carried up several large garbage bags, to be sorted into the Goodwill bags and the throwaway bags. I brought up our little wooden stepstool to crouch on as my days of kneeling are long over. We have concrete floors, and my knees would have been demolished.
And so I set to work. After about fifteen minutes, my husband stopped yelling, “What was THAT?” at every crunch, bang, and belted-out curse word. And the bags filled. Picture frames. File folders too big for my file drawer. Those weird metal things you put on the side of reports after punching in two holes. Odd little knick-knacks purchased for gifts and then forgotten about. An even weirder cloth thing that said in bright green print, “Namaste In Bed!” I asked Michael about that one, and he said he gave it to me once when I was sick in bed, and I was into meditation. Couldn’t prove it by me.
But then I found treasure. Actually, lots of treasure. I’d started putting photographs in there, with the full intention of yanking them out someday and putting them into photo albums. Remember when we used to do that, instead of keeping them on our phones and computers? So many photos that I meandered over, and then carefully put into large stiff envelopes to keep them safe.
And then I found my big kids’ high school graduation pictures. Back then (back then…my kids are 38, almost 36 and almost 35 now. My big kids are “back then”. Yikes.), you could choose to have a selection of the photos put into these tri-fold folders, like the ones that were used to hold your diploma, and so even if you only chose to have a few of the photos enlarged and framed for your Wall of Fame, you could keep your favorites as well. I had three of these. One for each kid.
We don’t have these folders anymore. I don’t have one for Olivia.
So I sat there for a while, looking down at the faces of my three big kids. Christopher. Andy. Katie. Such young and open faces. Faces ready to go out into the world and become…whatever and whoever they chose to be.
As I looked at each picture, defining and treasured moments for each child rose to the surface.
For Christopher: the Easter that he was attending CCD classes for First Communion. He went on Wednesdays, and on the Wednesday before Good Friday, as I was tucking him into his upper bunk in the room he shared with his little brother, he sat back up. “Mommy,” he said, “I don’t want to rise on Friday!”
“What?” I said.
“The teacher said that on Friday, Jesus died and then he rose and we will too, because of what he did! And it will happen on Friday! I don’t want to die! I don’t want to rise!”
I did my best to explain, and then I tucked him back in with his favorite stuffed animal, a little red devil named Hot Stuff he received on the day he was born. I loved the irony, but I hated the fear put into my little boy.
For Andy: He was in third grade when he came running home from school ahead of the other two and burst into the back door. “Mom!” he yelled. “Mom! I wrote a story in school and I wanna show you!”
I came out of the little office I had for writing and said, “That’s wonderful! Show me! Show me!”
He started digging in his backpack, but then he stopped. He looked up at me, frowning, and then he looked away. “But I think I spelled wizard wrong,” he said.
At that time, the school was actually grading on how many spelling errors there were in first drafts. I was horrified. When the other two straggled in, I got everyone their snacks and then I explained to Andy that writers don’t care how things are spelled in first drafts. Writers don’t care about punctuation in first drafts. Writers don’t even care if the story makes sense in the first draft. We do that later.
Beaming, he pulled the story out and we read it together. It was a wonderful story. And…wizard was spelled correctly. Again, I loved the irony, but hated the fear and self-criticism put into my little boy.
And then Katie. The kids used to come with me to the Y while I worked out. They stayed in the little daycare. One day, when I came to take them home, I found Katie standing right by the door. I thought she was waiting for me, but when I swept her up (she was three), she pointed to the door across the hall. “Mommy,” she said. “Show me.”
I walked her over and we looked through the little glass window into a dance class for teeny kids. Katie froze in my arms as she watched them twirl and bend and glide. Then she turned back to me, took my face in both of her hands, and said, “Mommy. I want that.”
I signed her up for dance class that day. Her teacher’s name was Miss Faye. On the first observation day, I sat and watched as Katie started in a row with the other kids, but eventually moved herself directly in front of Miss Faye, staring down at her feet, and making her little feet do the same.
When Katie was five years old, Miss Faye said Katie needed to go to a dance studio, that she couldn’t keep up with Katie’s desire to learn.
Off we went to Kellar Dance Studio, for years and years of ballet, tap, and jazz, and years and years of recitals. I watched in awe as my daughter rose on pointe shoes. And I grieved when she went off to college and dance came to an end. One of the high school senior photos shows her wrapping the delicate pink ribbons around her ankle.
My credenza is clean now, no longer a black hole. And while it took me a couple days to recover from the aches and pains of sitting on a low stepstool, it was so worth it. For those few hours, I had my big kids back.
It was lovely.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.