Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bittersweet Boxes

I made up my mind this week
that I would do some major fall cleaning.
I figured I could make a giant donation
to Goodwill before the cold and
rainy season starts.

I was really getting pumped up about it.

The "I'll Get It Later, Mom Stuff"
had overstayed its expiration date!
And I was needing storage space.

"I will be cleaning closets this week!"
I told my grown son.
"Everything that's yours is coming
back to you. It's gonna be picked up
or pitched out!"

Yeah, I was quite proud of
my firm attitude.
I walked away feeling that he was
actually fearing my wrath this time
and knew I meant business.

I set out in a mechanical method-
pulling out hangers of clothes,
tugging on boxes and bags
setting aside Christmas lights
and luggage
and lamps.
My plan was to take everything out
and put very little back in.

I sorted that pack-rat pile
of worthless rummage
with no reservations whatsoever.
I was on a roll!
I was getting it done- and nothing
was going to stop me!
I was a cleaning robot on steroids!
I was a heartless, mean mama-
extracting teenage junk
from its dusty resting place.

It felt so good.
In a few hours, the closet
would be beautifully mine.
All mine!

But the hardest work was ahead of me.
Now I had to sort through the boxes of my son's stuff.
I was positive that I could reduce the
two giant Rubber Maid totes,
three storage boxes, ten shoe boxes,
one trash bag, and a laundry basket -
into one or two good sized cardboard
containers that would fit perfectly
in my son's trunk.

At first it was easy.
I made myself a systematic assembly line.
I tossed out old magazines,
school notes, junk mail and dead batteries.
I stacked up school papers, note cards,
ink pens and board games into a new box.
I kept the ping pong balls, loose change,
hunting gear, and baseball cards
for another container.

Then, I opened a shoe box.
What are these, I thought ?
There was a rainbow colored stack
of ribbons from his grade school track meets.

It suddenly took me back to days when
I watched him from the sidelines
and cheered him on.
When I kept saying,
"You can make it- you can make it!"

It seemed like so long ago,
but yet, like it was yesterday.

Then in another box I found photos of him
in his Ninja Turtle shirt-
that somehow turned into a football jersey...
And the four-wheeler magazines
that turned into college curriculum catalogs...
And the bag of marbles
that became old car keys.

All of a sudden,
I felt my heart melt.
My "Mean Mom" persona quickly wilted
into a pitiful, weak woman.

I started crying as I found old ticket
stubs he had saved,
his first wallet,
and his baby book.
There were his art class drawings,
expired hunting licenses,
old cologne bottles,
and used-up watches.
And in a folder I found
all the letters and cards we had sent him
while he was away at school.

It was like holding a baby in my arms
right at that moment
that transformed into a boy-
and then into a man-
right before my eyes!

What I realized is what I always knew-
but never truly accepted.

My son wasn't ever really coming back to his room-
wasn't ever really going to live in this house,
play in this yard,
giggle with his dad
or be
little boy again.
Even though I am glad he has grown up,
it is hard to accept that his happiness
and survival doesn't depend on me.

With tears in my eyes,
I folded everything back
into the corner of the closet
and quietly closed the door.

I didn't need that space after all.

They say that there are happy tears
and there are sad tears.
Well, today, I cried a mixture of both.
I am sad to see the years slip by.
Knowing that my mothering days waning...
That my only son has grown up and away...

But I am proud that he is a good man.
(That he can still find his way back home
to give me a hug when I need it.)
That he looks toward the future
with excitement and with promise.

And I hope he knows
that I am still on the sidelines
cheering him on -
Forever positive
he will make it.