Sunday, August 19, 2012

Running away, and letting go

I laced up my shoes, steam coming from my ears before I had even hit the pavement.  As I ran from home, I could feel some of the tension falling away, yet it would take miles for me to return home to my normal self.  I had been grumpy and irritable, and critical with the kids, as I yelled at them to clean up their mess and LISTEN TO ME.  Unfortunately, that's not the atypical part.  What was strange was me breaking down in tears, realizing how awful I was acting and yet being powerless to stop it.  As John managed the fallout from my breakdown, setting the kids to their tasks, he encouraged me to take a break, and I took the opportunity to run away.  With each step I left behind the messiness of my kids and the demands of our back-to-school preparation.  I gained distance from my fears that I will not be ready for the busyness of a new academic year at work.  I gained some mental clarity as the anger and stress started to dissipate, and I started to wonder how I had gotten so out-of-whack.

It could have been the incessant whining of the kids through the church service, or the two meetings I sat through after church.  It might have been the mess I had to climb over on my way into the house after hours of running errands in preparation for school this week.  I was tired and hungry and ill, and although I thought coming home to my family would make it all better, sometimes the rosy picture in my mind doesn't match the messy reality.  Any combination of those could have sent me over the edge.

But then it hit me that it all started with a backpack.  Last week, I helped to organize a "blessing of the backpacks" during our worship service.  Students came forward with their backpacks and the congregation and the students prayed together for the school year ahead.  After church, I led a meeting with a group of 5th through 8th graders and their parents in anticipation of a new ministry we're hoping to start.  I made a mental note to go back to the sanctuary later for Brady and Maryn's backpacks, but it got lost in the busyness of lunch, games, planning, and John wrangling our distracting children.  Needless to say, I walked off without them.  I looked for them first thing this morning and found Maryn's, but Brady's was gone.  We realized that it was likely sent to a local elementary school as our mission project to help provide low-income children with school supplies.

Now I'm usually quick to donate to such causes (it's an easy way for me to feel like I'm "doing" something without much effort on my part).  But something about this realization made me incredibly sad.  I knew it was silly; after all, Brady had been asking for a new backpack.  But this one, although nothing special to look at, had sentimental value for me.  I remember finding it as I was shopping for his preschool supplies and waiting until a combination of sale and coupon offers made it a reasonable price.  I bought a coordinating one for Maryn, although she was far from needing one.  Both were put in storage for a year as Brady's teacher didn't allow backpacks due to space issues.  I remember getting them out in preparation for our Disney cruise last May and how excited the kids were to pack their toys in their own bags.  I remember them trudging through the airport early on the morning of our departure, proudly and independently carrying their own bags on their backs.  I remember the fun we had on that trip, some of the best memories ever as a family (and I know, it's the small, day-to-day moments that really matter, and I hate to even place such value on a vacation when it's really such an extravagant example of consumerism...but really, it was amazing).  That same backpack accompanied Brady to kindergarten, and to trips to visit his grandparents.  It symbolizes to me his early childhood that sometimes seems to be rushing by.  Losing it is a reminder of the things I let slip by, the failures I experience when I'm doing too much to stop and realize what I'm leaving behind.

I get the irony in hanging on so tightly to things, and losing my patience with the bearer of the item, the one who is truly valuable and precious.  But maybe my love for him is just too big and complex, so constant and central that I cannot risk thinking thoughts of his loss.  So my heart breaks instead for a bag that has carried so many special memories, on the shoulders of one so very dear.

So farewell, bookbag.  I hope you find a good home with someone that carries you with as much hope as Brady.  May you lighten the load for another small boy and ease the anxiety of another mother fighting the hard battle of letting go.

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