No lie. My dad asked that question. I was in high school, standing in the kitchen with one, maybe two, of my sisters. I don’t remember exactly who stood with me, but I know I didn’t face that inquisition alone. I think my mom was upstairs. Probably rummaging through cabinets in search of a stray tampon. In fact, most of the details of that moment were washed away by my teenage horror, but I still remember that question. That most embarrassing question. And, I remember the silence that followed. Not peaceful, comforting silence, but the silence that comes only with absolute shock.
For obvious reasons, I hadn’t thought about that day in years, but a few weeks ago, the memory came flooding back. I was heading out to Costco (as usual!) and I wanted my ear buds so that I could listen to music while strolling the aisles of bulk food. In temporary replacement for her broken set, I had loaned mine to my younger daughter, A. When I asked for them back, she handed them over, with no reservation, but a simple, “Oh, and just so you know, one of the ear buds isn’t working anymore. I think a wire just broke or something. I’m sorry.”
Uh-huh…really… “Just broke.” I didn’t say anything–in that moment. However, I’m pretty sure I looked like a cartoon character with steam coming out of her ears. I took a deep breath. I thanked her for her honesty, told her she would need to buy me a new pair, and headed out the door. Without my music.
As I turned the key in the ignition, I flashed back to that afternoon when my dad asked about stolen tampons. I can imagine the rant he must have heard through the bathroom door when my mother discovered the empty tampon box. It probably sounded familiar, not unlike the rants about a borrowed brush, or pair of shoes, or hairspray, or blouse, or eyeliner, etc. With 6 daughters , I’m sure she owned very little that wasn’t “borrowed” –and not replaced–over the years. And to think, it all started with the borrowing of a little real estate in her body.
As I made my drive up the peaceful country road (which is the real reason I go to Costco so often) I
thought ranted, aloud, about the number of times I have gone in search of something that was borrowed and not replaced. There have been shoes, and lipsticks, and brushes, and iPods, and ear buds,and favorite pens. (Really, really bugs me when they take my favorite pens! My husband may never ask, “Who took your mother’s last tampon?” but he’ll send in the hounds to stop my rant about a pen.) I thought about my mother and the infinite patience she demonstrated when she couldn’t find ____________, or found it broken, or never found it at all. I thought about my daughters, who are so honest and take responsibility if they break something. I thought about tampons and broken ear buds. And, then I thought about transitions.
Life changes when a child moves from lipstick borrowed to play dress up to lipstick borrowed for a date. My girls and I are in a season of transition. As moms, sharing with our children begins on the day of conception. As they grow, we demonstrate sharing by offering our last bite of dessert, our jewelry for dress up, or even our favorite pens. By the time children are teens, we are accustomed to sharing not only the best parts of ourselves, but most of what we own as well. “Mom, can I borrow….the car, this necklace, or that CD?” More than once, I have walked into the kitchen and found a favorite pan burned or opened an empty gum package that was returned to my purse after my last piece was taken. Of course, teens mean no harm. Most days, they’re simply trying to survive the “Twilight Zone”–the untethered years between childhood and adulthood–with the aid of an iPod and borrowed ear buds. But, the promise of knowing my brush will still be on my make-up table when I need it is starting to make those empty-nest years look mighty tempting.
As I made my way past the familiar horses grazing in the field, I ended my rant. I would survive my time at Costco, sans music, as I had many a time before when I couldn’t find my iPod. “Just a season,” I reminded myself, “and you’re gonna miss these years when they’re gone.” I smiled. I will miss these years.
Turning into the parking lot, the “Music Gods” sent the perfect period to my rant-filled drive. Matchbox Twenty’s “Unwell” began to play on the radio. I pulled into a parking space and sang along–loudly. Someday, I will be “how I used to be”, before children and broken ear buds. But for now, I’ll just roll with the burned pans, and borrowed shoes, and empty gum packages–all reminders of the two fabulous girls that call me “Mom.”
Oh, and just for the record, I didn’t steal my mom’s last tampon. That time.
What little things remind you that “you’re not crazy” — you’re a mom?
©2011 Mary Lanzavecchia/Transitioning Mom