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
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.
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
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
and with promise.
And I hope he knows
that I am still on the sidelines
cheering him on -
he will make it.
(Originally posted Nov.5, 2008)