Two hours down and I have only gotten through half the stuff in my closet. At the urging and with the help of my youngest daughter who conveyed handfuls of items to try on, each piece of clothing received a yea, a nay or a “second chance.” The pile of “no’s” grew precipitously, demanding a second bin even larger than the first to contain all the send-offs.
Lo and behold, there’s a reason I frequent elastic waist bands and loose-fitting sportswear; most of what I own no longer fits or has become yesterday’s style or color. “Shoulder pads, really Mom? They’re so retro. I can probably sell them on my clothing website.” The message is clear: I shouldn’t have all this stuff. Why am I keeping it?
The easy answer is, I’m too lazy to go through it. The more honest answer is, I don’t want to try it on to see that it no longer fits. Gone are the days that I can hang onto jeans hoping I might shimmy in if I just lose that last 10 pounds. Today, as buttons don’t button and zippers don’t zip, I fight the urge to hate myself for the shape I’m in. Heavier, rounder and softer.
While some people fear that others will find what they’ve been hiding in their closet, I fear what I have been hiding there from myself. Now, here it is, in living color, undeniable and staring back at me from the mirror. The body you used to have is gone. Now you’re stuck with this one. With me.
It’s amazing what a closet shows you about yourself. Can I handle the truth? I am not who I used to be, no matter how tightly I hold onto the used-to-be me. The grip I have on the last vestiges of myself is slipping.
I can’t run full steam ahead with all my ideas like I used to. limited energy. limited time. limited passion. limited resources. What will I give my future? What’s worth giving it to?
Allow me this moment of lament for those youthful days when growing out of something meant growing up. Jeans were too short because I had grown taller, not wider. Shirts were too tight because I had grown bustier, not thicker. Toes poking out my sneakers meant a longer instep, not flattening arches. The only things that lasted more than a season were my favorite t-shirts and sweatshirts which, when they lay in frayed tatters, my mother insisted it was time they go.
Can I see today’s growing out of not as growing up but as growing into?
Can I grow into an older self, more secure in my skin and more comfortable with my size? Can I embrace the truth which no one will tell me unless I tell myself that I am not my weight or the number on my label? This physical change is, if not inevitable, at least for me is real and not avoidable. Here I am in the body I have, for which I am grateful and to which I am dedicated in my care taking. Can I accept the newly old me?
“I’m trying not to hate myself,” I hear myself say out loud to my daughter who should never hear me say this.
“It’s okay, Mom. We’ll go shopping,” she says smiling and without a trace of the indictment, derision or self-flagellation I feel certain I deserve. All of these years I have toiled to maintain a fit physique – I’m in the fitness business after all – so as not to be accused of not working hard enough to be thin. Now, I need to make peace with healthy and as high performance as possible, given the raw material I have to work with.
Apparently, what I’m growing into is someone who’s not afraid of what lurks in my closet. It’s not hiding now; it’s in plain sight. I guess this is just my version of coming out. What I see in the mirror is just fine. Mine to take care of. Mine to use. Mine to share.
Everyone has a closet.
You would have loved my mom. She was diligent and dutiful, industrious and ingenious, fashionable and fastidious, a loyal friend and devoted spouse.
If there were room-moms back then, she would’ve been a great one. If there were sports-Mom awards given, she would have been well-decorated. She cooked a mean pot roast, prepared an awesome peach pie and baked chocolate chip cookies like nobody’s business.
Nowadays, there are only a few folks who remember Mom because she left us in 1982. That was eight years before I became a mom, which may help explain how completely delighted but totally unprepared I was to be a mom. Diapers? Never done ’em. Naptime? Oh, they take ’em? Cribs? Bibs? Baths? High chairs? Pacifiers or thumbs? Nursing or bottles? Baby talk or big kid words? So many questions! It was a brave new world out there for me.
Books, of course I read them, but Dr. Spock along with What to Expect When You’re Expecting can only do so much. Nothing really prepares you for the unexpected, and those bundles of joy are the complete un-package. They foil you at every turn, then delight you at every opportunity. They have you totally wracking your brain (after you realize this is NOWHERE in any of the books) and completely surprise you when they solve it their own way. Somehow, they survive babyhood and so do you. This is nothing short of miraculous, really, given a mom’s resources and the magnitude of the task.
So, as we come upon Mother’s Day and I give thanks for my mom, I am particularly aware of so many other “moms” in my life who have lent their wisdom and kindness and a heaping dose of patience. I am thankful…
- For a step mom, ever at the ready, who was devoted to my dad and my kids
- For an aunt who called, cared, listened and even read chapters of my novel
- For a neighboring mom who invited me to the first church that got under my skin
- For my mom’s dearest friend, to whom my mom is still an ever-present companion
- For my friends who beautifully model what motherhood looks like and should be
This last makes me think of Mary Anne, a special friend, the wife of a pastor and mother to three boys, who now has a gaggle of grandchildren. Recently she was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. When she messaged me the news I was struck with complete disbelief. This vital woman, so engaged with her family, so alive in the church and so full of life…how could she have received this devastating news?
From a thousand miles away, there was nothing I could do or say, so I did what I do: I rode my bike as fast and as far as I could. All along the way I asked, Why, God? Why this woman? Why now? When she has given her whole life to her family, her friends, her husband, her church? Why this Mom?
That’s when God drew my attention to the tree in the distance. It stood all alone, branches bare of leaves, with limbs reaching proudly upward and outward. Without foliage, it reminded me of the future I saw for my friend, when she would lose her hair thanks to chemo and much of her body weight under the stress of illness.
I climbed off my bike, stood and stared. Looking at this tree, I God-imagined a nest in every branch. Each one securing its babies, some peeking out and cheeping to be fed, others wobbling to the edge to risk taking flight. How many young had this woman fledged? Not only her sons with their wives and young children, but dear friends she had walked beside: Bible study companions, congregation members, nearby neighbors and all of their children. I was certain that this woman had been mom to a vast array of children, including me, and including my children. She was the nesting tree. No illness would ever take that away.
This Mother’s Day, while I give thanks to God for my mom, I am especially grateful for the moms I know who labor in the nests of their lives with vigor, fortitude and creative aplomb. I smile to think of the moms my girls may someday be, praising God for the gift of Mary Anne and the many others who have taken me under-wing.
It’s what a mother does. It’s what we’re meant to do.
“Rats,” said one. This was greeted by a delighted chortle from the backseat, where sat the other, smiling at beating her sister this time to thank Dad for the dinner we had just enjoyed at the restaurant. The rules are: you can’t say it until we return home, the driveway counts, first to remember, wins. No prize. Just satisfaction.
Our oldest daughter started this game years ago. But last night, our youngest raced her to the thanks. She must have been primed for the punch because, the second our wheels hit the driveway, out came the: “Thanks for dinner, Dad.” Then the groan from the front seat, admitting defeat.
I had no part in creating this game. It was all them. In fact, last night I was cautioned because I thanked Dad as he signed the credit card slip at the restaurant. That doesn’t count, I was told. You have to wait till we’re home.
At least I can still play, even though it’s my husband I’m thanking and not my dad because we all call him dad. Even me, when the kids are around.
But today I am marveling at the message in this game, created by the kids, refereed by the kids, perpetuated by the kids: the race to thank their father for his generosity to provide a lavish meal, at no expense to them.
What a meal was set for us at a table in a long ago upper room. By His grace, we get to eat it. And we don’t have to wait till we get home to play.
Thanks, Dad, for dinner.