Last week I was all about Ice Cream Theology, living in the moment, enjoying the sweetness of life.
Well, that melted.
This week I’m fretting (occasionally) over the footprint I’ll be leaving on my children’s mental health after they’re forced to sift through my clutter when I’ve lost the race and I’m six feet under.
I blame my Mom.
I realize this is extremely cliche and irrational. Here’s the deal, my Mom’s house was so organized, even her bras were folded, socks matched, glassware arranged by size and usage, her shoes were lined up in the closet as if a marching band, the sheets in her linen closet were color coded for goodness sake. There was not a single piece of paper laying around that wasn’t filed, tagged, paper clipped, or neatly stacked in a basket.
Okay, there were some taxes she forgot to pay, but she was going through some intense treatmentst at the time, and we were able to rectify that issue quite easily.
It turns out the government is a bureaucracy and will always take your money.
Much like my closet, a ruthless establishment, which takes everything I confer to it’s cavernous structure, and double taxes me with guilt and shame.
I kid you not.
How is it possible that I thought a see through butter-yellow blouse would suit me? Or that polka dot dress which barely covers my ass? The tube tops, the short shorts, the pencil skirts that will never be worn again. I cringe at the row of oversized blouses, it was a stage, thankfully one I was booed off.
The shoes are problematic. They are hard to get around. You can’t see but I assume you can use your imagination. I walked the trails of Yosemite in this pair of worn hiking boots, danced at my daughter’s wedding in these delicate gold heels, and you’ll have to trust me, but I look pretty damn stylish in my prized leopard pumps. There are scratched-up cowboy boots from my Urban Cowboy phase, sandals that carry sand from beaches afar, and tennis shoes in various stages of disrepair. The thing about shoes is the memories are so poignant I can slip into them and actually travel back in time.
My children will inherit these shoes without the stories as if Cinderella with one glass slipper and no prince charming to carry her off to her happily ever after, away from the ashes of life, and a cheeseparing stepmother. As Victoria Van Tiem says, just like Cinderella, it always comes back to the shoes.
I stifle a laugh.
Why is it so hard for me to let things go? I should call Kelley, she’s a Kondo kick-ass, I could pay for her to come out? It wouldn’t take more than six months and besides Tim knows how to cook. He’ll be fine.
Touching the silky material of the dresses I wore to the girls’ weddings, enshrined in plastic covers, along with my own wedding dress stuffed on the shelf in a large white box. I have wedding albums that go back three generations stacked in the back of the closet. What in the world will the kids do with them?
It’s daunting. Do I squeeze the memories out of them as if lemons and then toss them in the Goodwill pile, the compost barrel of life?
The problem is there are bits and pieces of myself hiding all over this house.
Glancing around the room I notice the small paintings stashed in the bookshelf from sidewalk artists depicting the places we’ve traveled, or that ceramic vase we picked up in Duruta during a rainstorm, the porcelain lady from Madrid where we celebrated Martica’s twenty-first birthday with Marta and Ken, and the little red gelato dishes I purchased from a local antique shop while shopping with Vicky and Nancy. These are the memories I silently hope will not vanish as I age.
Walking back to my computer with a fresh cup of coffee I pick up my grandfather’s pipe that sits on a shelf in the hall. If I close my eyes and smell the residue of tobacco, I’m actually transported to the parlor of their home on Sixth Street, in San Jose, across from the elementary school. It was the only place grandpa was allowed to smoke. I’d sit with him, me on the floor, he on the settee, and I’d watch the way the smoke swirled in the air with each exhalation. He wasn’t a talker, we’d just sit together, in silence.
I hope everyone has a memory as sweet as this.
There are stacks of letters my students wrote to themselves that I send back to them in five-year increments that live on the shelves next to my bed.
The kids will think I’m crazy and what a stretch that will be?
The truth is I’ve found my home to be a holier place than Church, it’s the intimacy of our routines, as if a form of prayer. The ritual of breaking bread with family and friends. The blessing of creating a life from the embers of our love. Within these very walls, we learned how to be grateful, kind, and compassionate, but most importantly we learned how to forgive. We don’t give up on each other, we’ve mastered resilience, and from the moors of home, we go out into the world securely attached to who and what we are.
Interestingly enough, well of interest to me, as I’m writing this essay a notice comes in on my phone. It’s from the family Slack Channel where we engage in private communication (you have to be born an Oreglia or married to one of my children to get access to the password) about what we’re doing, what we’re reading, Coronavirus information, upcoming family dinners, investments, subscriptions, politics (a popular channel), random, Tony’s next visit, images of the grandchildren, and a few travel albums.
It’s a great way to stay connected when we’re spread out all over the world or across the street as in Julie’s case.
So Julie posted an article in the “General” file and she introduces the article by asking “Is Mom hampering our independence?” Well, that got my attention. The attached article explores how tracking devices parents use to keep tabs on their children’s safety can hamper young adult’s ability to mature.
I’ve never heard of this Life360 but I can find all my children (except Tony who refuses to use an iPhone) at any given time night or day by using the friend finder on their iPhones. One time I noticed Dante was located at a jail in Orange County. I panicked and starting calling, texting, face timing him until he responded. It’s the least I can do. He was installing solar panels at the jail. He was working. It’s his job. Sorry, not sorry.
Am I hampering their independence? Absolutely not, they stalk me just as much. “Hey Mom, I notice you’re driving by the Safeway, can you pick up some…” Or Kelley texts me and complains, “you’ve been with Julie all day.”
And here I sit trying to think of ways in which I can make my passing easier on them? Well hell, no one will be tracking them any longer, it’ll be more like a haunting, similar but not the same.
I’m just going to delight in the pieces of me I find hiding all over the house, because it’s too daunting to consider dismantling all the props I spent years putting into place, knowing wherever my eye lands the image “sparks joy.”
As Selena Gomez warns, never look back. If Cinderella had looked back and picked up the shoe she would have never found her prince.
It seems ingenuous but I don’t want to spend the remainder of my time ridding my home of evidence of me. I’m not a white board you can wipe clean at the end of the day, the marks of living are indelible, permanent, never to be erased.
So lets’s stick with the epithet that they’ll be “charmed” to find my fashion faux pas, teaching tasks, family memorabilia, and all my disordered clutter will make them appreciate their well-ordered lives and that will be my last gift to them. Gratitude.
I love it.
It is destructive to live in the future, to bypass the present moment, to lose track of your kids, or fail to notice the smoke currently swirling in the air. The utter silence of being at peace with where you are sitting, cross-legged on the settee, leopard pumps dangling from your polished toes.
I’m Living in the Gap, thinking of way to hamper my children’s independence, care to join me?
Additionally (means it didn’t make the cut):
I was listening to a podcast on the way up to the lake a few weeks ago on how the military trains the brains of their commanders to work under duress. I sort of wish Larry were here to fill in the details on the program but he’s biking this morning which affords me the time to write. So the details will remain sketchy.
I even made a small notation in my “things to write about” notebook but so like me, I only captured the big picture, and left out the details.
The woman being interviewed was some high-ranking person in the military, not sure about her title, but she was in charge of a mission. Her mission was slightly more dangerous than my mission to declutter the house but there are similarities.
Try and keep your smirking to a minimum. Thank you.
The military prepares its people to perform sort of like we prepare our students for a fire, earthquake, or shooter on campus. It’s a very methodical way to form muscle or brain memory. The idea is that you can teach the brain to calm down and think even when you are physically in pain, sleep-deprived, and under attack. They kept this poor girl awake for like a week with lights and loud noises, she had to perform grueling calisthenics all hours of the day and night, and she was constantly being yelled at in a derogatory manner.
So when this exhausted, totally stressed-out, abused person was put in charge of a mission, she decided to make lists.
It calmed her down, she could check things off, and even when it seemed she wasn’t getting things done fast enough the more checks the calmer she felt.
Okay I’m not exactly sleep-deprived but I am post-menopausal, I have physical ailments from riding my stationary bike, and it’s always hectic around here. The thing is I can make lists, and I’m a huge fan of checking things off my lists, and therefore it’s indisputable, I would make a great general.
And who doesn’t love the idea of being saluted by their husband as he passes you in the hall?