I clearly remember being nine months and one day pregnant and insisting I had to flip the mattress on our bed. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it in so long. It’s supposed to be done every few months and I tend to forget it for years. If I didn’t do it before the baby came, it wasn’t going to happen for another long time. I felt a real urgency to take care of long-neglected chores; I’d already dusted the lightbulbs.

After my daughter’s birth, I laughed about my stereotypical and somewhat manic pregnant behavior. Then I did all of the same things again three years later, right before my son was born, including flipping the mattress.

I’ve never been a domestic diva. But the third trimester of pregnancy placed me in the fierce grip of the nesting instinct, nonetheless. Never had I harbored such an intense desire to have every piece of laundry done. Every inch of the house clean. Every bit of clutter disposed of. Everything. In. Order. Now.

Was it hormonal? An attempt to exercise control? A reaction to transition? Whatever the cause, I’m experiencing something similar now without the pregnancy component. I have entered perimenopause, so maybe hormones are a factor. Or maybe it’s the sense of impending transition. My kids are growing up and my mother is in her final months of life.

And I suddenly want to do all of things around my house. My husband gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look this afternoon when I, out of the blue, asked, “So when are we starting the entry room project? How about next weekend? Can we get the materials then and start?” There might have been an unhinged tone to my voice.

Perhaps part of it is seeing my mom fading. It reminds me of my own mortality. It reminds me I don’t have forever to make this house the home I dreamed of. Then, too, when she does pass – in a few weeks or months, or a couple of years if I’m feeling optimistic – people will gather here. I need the house in some kind of order. And I’d like to have it nicer for the kids  in their last little while at home.

Today I took advantage of the holiday from work to address my container hoarding. I have a teeny problem. But see, they can’t go in the curbside recycling and I do re-use them sometimes…

Hoarding? Who, me?
Hoarding? Who, me?

In case you can’t see from the photo, the Target bag is nothing but lids. ALL lids. But most of this is gone now. We can now open the cabinet doors without yogurt cartons spilling out around our feet.

I also went through every item of my mom’s that I have stored in my house. I made a list with the intention of asking her to specify who gets what when she dies. She’d already given me permission to use any practical everyday items we had here.

And here’s a reward for my work  – found in a box I’d never opened because it was marked “coffee mugs.” I figured Mom didn’t need coffee mugs at the nursing home, so I never bothered to look in the box. I should have.

My reward
My reward – 50 cups of tea

Letting Go of Childhood a Piece at a Time

“It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn’t.” – Barbara Kingsolver

Goodbye old friend.

I took a load of  – I hate to call it clutter – let’s say I took a load of personal history to Goodwill today. It needed to be done. Outgrown clothes and some Zumba hand weight thingies I won as a door prize one time. Those I won’t miss.

But my kids both sorted through their books a while back and put a stack in the give away pile. I sighed and pined as I stroked the cover of each book before putting it in the brown grocery bag. I even skimmed through a couple of them. I miss the days when the kids and I read together. Goodbye Enid Blyton. Goodbye Boxcar Children.

As hard as it was passing on the books, the real wrench came with the toy shopping cart. My husband and I gave it to our daughter for Christmas the year she was three. At the time, I had little faith in its durability. I thought she’d play with it for three or four months and then get tired of it or it would break. I’ve never before or since given anyone a gift that was such a hit. It was the first package opened, and my daughter used it the rest of the day to deliver items to people. After that, the cart often went with us to the grocery store, where my little girl would do her shopping right next to mine. It delivered our “extra mail” sometimes – pieces of scrap paper or real junk mail that I gave her so she could do her postal rounds.

When we moved from our old house to the one where we now live, my daughter was eight. We did a severe pruning of goods at that time, but the shopping cart survived the cut. My son was barely five, and he still played with it sometimes. In fact, my daughter did, too, even though she towered over it by then. After a while, nobody pushed it around anywhere, but it sat in a corner of my daughter’s room, where she used it to store craft supplies.

A couple of years ago, she decluttered her room and finally moved out the shopping cart, telling me she was ready to let go of it. So I placed it in a corner of my and my husband’s bedroom, where it remained for another two years. I kept thinking I couldn’t give it to just anyone. I was waiting for the right child to come along. I wanted to know who got it and perhaps see them play with it. But that never happened.

This morning I stopped kidding myself. Since I was taking several things to Goodwill anyway, I knew I needed to include the cart. My daughter is 17, for goodness sake. It’s time for some other child to discover it and get some joy from it, even if I never know who that child is. I had to dab a tear as I put the shopping cart in the back of my van. I know for the next year or two, I’ll keep my eyes open at the grocery store, hoping to see some little kid pushing a blue and pink cart down the aisles.