Wrapping Up Christmas

The Big Moment
One week ago...
“We aren’t...um...exchanging right?” Rob asks, then quickly adds, “I mean stocking stuffers but nothing...um....” 

He was drowning in Christmas. A simple, “I have everything I need,” is all that’s required in this moment. Because I do, have everything I need and want. But I can’t say it. 

There’s something about the way he’s looking at me and the fact that I’ve been running around non-stop fulfilling holiday obligations while also performing everyday tasks (why can’t the Elf on the Shelf do laundry?). I know he’s busy too and a crazy thoughtful guy to-boot, but I just can’t let him off the hook. 

Maybe it’s because I’ve been shopping and wrapping and strategizing with lists and the like for, well, months to prepare for our holiday travels over the hills and through the woods.

When it comes to our boys (whose gifts have to be purchased, wrapped, and hidden in the car or sent with family members visiting weeks in advance), I pride myself on balance. Not too much and hopefully not too little. And I don’t buy in to the latest and greatest. I hope my kids will learn early that setting sights on things is a losing battle...that things are not the spirit of Christmas...and...

Having said all of that, only two days before on a run with friends, I’d had a Christmas “eureka” moment. I'd realized as I recited who was getting what, that I’d bought a bunch of stuff for my youngest that he kinda sorta wanted but mostly what I kinda sorta thought he should have. And I’d spent as much on the kinda sorta pile as it would have cost to buy the one thing he really wanted. Why?

I was mentally rejiggering, deciding what needed to go back to secure the big gift, when Rob walked in. He simply nodded as I announced my gift conclusion. He didn’t seem to grasp the significance of my “eureka” moment and yet supported it. And then he asked...

“We aren’t...um...exchanging right?” 

There is no one gift that will make my Christmas. But still I’m looking for a gesture, that he gets...it. How tired and stressed I am. That even though I am a crab-cake on and off the entire holiday season, I wouldn’t trade our life for a thousand little or big any things. 

What is the gift that says that? It’s an impossible task that a bathrobe or purse or pair of socks can’t fill. But still I want him to try because, well, it’s Christmas.

And now, one week later...

I visually wade through the boxes carelessly tossed in our guest room. At the beginning of the trip I carefully packed bags of gifts by recipient as we departed locations. By the end, I was shoving items into any bag that wouldn’t burst and fit into our SUV that was starting to resemble a compact car. By the time we unpacked our car around 9:30 pm, my instructions were simple. “Throw everything in the guest room!”

And boy did they. Toys, books, clothes--I even picked up a painting along the way (thanks Mom). 

I search for where to start and a colorful box catches my eye. One of my gifts from Rob. I’m not sure if he went back out into the shopping maze to secure more gift paraphernalia after our “conversation” (I’m guessing yes) but his gifts were perfect. Sentimental with some practicality mixed in.

The box makes me smile and so does the fact that somewhere between family gatherings, Christmas mass, periodic snow in the air, and the “I got it? I got it!?” as Will opened his cherished gift...I felt it. Christmas.

I carefully shut the guest room door behind me, so there is no chance of it popping open until I’m good and ready. Unwrapping Christmas will have to wait until the Happy New Year.

'Tis the Season (To Re-Learn a Few Things)

Stories from Christmas Past (not much has changed). 

This year was going to be different. Most of my shopping was done in November, I was wrapping by day one of the advent calendar, and a summer snapshot had produced the perfect picture for the ceremonial card. 

Each year our family—me, my husband and our boys—travel around the holidays. The timing and order of visits varies, but we are always on the road. By now, I am used to the shopping and wrapping and laundry required for the journey, still it comes down to a lot of last minute. But not this year. 

This year I was ready, prepared. Four days before the car would be packed and ready to roll, I even decided to take both boys, with their festering colds, to the pediatrician for a precautionary visit. Just to be sure.  

“Everything looks good,” she’d said, checking all relevant ears and noses. “Just watch the congestion, you never can be sure of where a cold will settle.”

Five days later, on Christmas Eve morning, my youngest woke unable to open his eyes. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. What more could I have done to secure a stress-free holiday? Three hundred miles from home, we found our way to a friend of a friend’s doctor who this time diagnosed double ear infections and conjunctivitis.   

As I stood in line at the local pharmacy, trying to remind myself that in thirty years I would look back on this time with longing, I caught my reflection in a strangely placed mirror. I looked tired and unremarkable. Not at all what I had imagined when I bought the latest product for my new “piecey” haircut (as my stylist called it) or as I labored to pack five complete outfits for long lingering cups of coffee while catching up with relatives.   

Later that day my brother and sister and their spouses began to arrive. As we transported packages, caught up on the day and slowly made our way to the living room—glass of sparkly bubbles in hand—I started to remember what I seem to have to re-learn every year.  

Christmas can’t be captured in a card or even a superbly thoughtful gift. Christmas arrives in moments. Snuggling with the littlest family members, re-telling the stories of loved ones long gone, singing carols around the piano, watching my mom make the same oyster stew, that no one really likes, because that’s what her mom made at Christmastime. Basking in the warmth of connection.

And, if I’m lucky, each year getting a little closer to acceptance. Because the kids will probably get sick and my hair will most likely fall flat. And despite my grand desire to orchestrate the endless details, as though somehow this year will be different, the simple fact is: the season is bigger than all the efforts. That’s what makes it Christmas.

Wander On

A playgroup for creativity. That’s what a writer’s group is. 

When my oldest was six months old and we were very new to town, I joined a playgroup. The goals were clear-- meet other parents, socialize my kid, and ultimately figure out: am I doing this parenting thing right?

After a few meet-ups, I came to a comforting conclusion. No one has “the” answers but some people can inspire you to be and do your best, which is monumentally helpful when you find yourself alone in unchartered waters all day – every day.

Writing, like parenting, requires a stream of steady, purposeful acts of devotion. It’s the million little moments that no one sees or knows or cares about, except for you, that ultimately breathes life into your work.

Writing is also an act of solitude. Which is ironic because the whole purpose of writing is connection. Good writing screams: Do you hear me? Can you relate?! 

Which is where a good writer’s groups come in. I belong to two. One meets every other week in an inspired barn in the town where I live. The second meets once a month in our town’s library.

The monthly library crew writes for children. We are a funny bunch, equal part wit and determination. Participants come from all parts of Connecticut with varying interests, writing styles and goals. And we sit dutifully in a teal colored room with colonial (circa 1980) decor sharing what we’ve come up with, in the hopes of sparking creative minds much younger than our own.

Last month I read a fresh piece. A jam packed, barely edited, start of a story that’s been rattling around my brain for a long time. As I opened up my folder and began, my ego innards were asking,“Why did you choose this, you have so many pieces, why read this seed of a thing?”

But that’s sharing. Putting yourself out there. And just like the days of sipping coffee while swapping tales of toddler tantrums, the drive for connection is universal. We all want to know: “Am I heading in the right direction? Are my efforts worth something?”

In true form, my library group came through. With encouragement. Suggestion. Prodding. Afterwards members handed me scraps of paper. It’s customary in our group to provide a nugget of written, formal feedback. 

The next morning, coffee in hand, I glanced through the comments. Remnants of the night before, nudges for the new day. 

As I opened the final piece, a smile widened across my face. There were no polite suggestions about character development or plot or word usage.

The paper said simply:
Wander On

Just the inspiration I needed. 

And that’s exactly what I did, nestled in my cozy corner chair in the coffee shop where I write. Alone with all the other wanderers out there.

Miss Daisy

A few weeks ago we welcomed a ten pound, eight week old Labradoodle named Daisy into our home.

Rob and I have never had a dog before, ever. I wouldn’t exactly describe us as “pet people.” In fact, I’ve never ogled over doggy pictures on-line or craved the attention of a neighbor’s pup. It used to embarrass me, my absence of animal fondness. I figured I was missing the furry love gene.

Still we found ourselves excited as we prepared for our new arrival. I hoped it was like other monumental endeavors--owning a house, having kids--different when it was yours. (And besides the boys professed they’d do EVERYTHING. So we were set.)

We bought the puppy books, found a vet, and listened to lots of advice from family and friends, veterans of the puppy universe.

Then we dove in. To potty training, endless chewing, strange playing behaviors, tummy rubs, licks, (lots of licks!), and even puppy class. 

We’re six weeks in and my now twenty pound ball of fuzz occupies way more of my day and heart than I ever could have imagined. Daisy is making lots of progress with the sit, come, stay, appropriate potty behavior routine. 

And I’d say we’ve made progress too. In fact, in the last few weeks, she’s taught me a thing or two.

The grass isn’t always greener in someone else’s yard. I’ve spent more time in my back yard in the last 6 weeks than in the 6 years we’ve lived in our house. No exaggeration! I’ve gotten to intimately know each patch of grass. “Go potty. Go potty.” Our chosen command. (You need one according to the puppy book). 

And you know what? I like my backyard. I don’t know what took me so long to discover how awesome it is.

Life is simple. A good day requires some pee, poop, a couple of good meals (not necessarily in that order), lots of sleep, a walk or two and an end-of-day belly rub. What more is there? Life is good.

What’s the hurry?! Ten years ago my life was full of pauses. Naptime. Diaper change time. Feeding time. Burping time. Tummy time. In the last few years, not so much. It’s mostly been go, go, go! But now it is impossible to hurry out the door, to zoom past Daisy. 

The tail wags. The head cocks. She talks in her puppy way. “Where you going?” “When will you be back?” “Want to play?” 

And so I do, whenever I can. Because unlike 10 years ago...I now know. How fast it all goes. 

Ceremonial Sauce

At the end of summer, just as the nights turn crisp and mums multiply, I make my ceremonial sauce. Forty juicy tomatoes that’s what it takes. Trial and error has gone into that number. It’s enough to make sauce for two meals with some left over for the freezer. After all, these are not just any tomatoes. They are tomatoes from the garden. 

This morning as I poured over the past prime plants, picking the late blooming tomatoes, I felt the familiar struggle of the changing season. In the garden, in me. My practice plot has come to mean much more to me than the produce it provides. I've learned a lot, over the past few summers, in the garden.

Space. Plants, like people, need space. When they are crowded they either get power hungry or topple from the weight of others around them.

Balance. (Yes I’m talking to you summer of 2013!) Plants try to acclimate to extreme conditions, but at the end of the day a little sun and a little rain produces the best yield. Too much of either and everything drowns or cracks. Especially tomatoes.

Timing. Never water in high heat. The water bakes the plants and makes everything droopy. It’s the same as trying to reason with a tantrum throwing toddler in a grocery store. Let the intensity subside, and things will work out just fine.

Imperfections. Get rid of weeds before they’ve fully taken root. If you wait too long, it can be difficult to tell which is the plant and which is the weed. After a certain point, it’s better to have some weeds growing side by side with the plants than to kill the vegetables trying to destroy the interloper. And sometimes, it turns out, the plants and weeds grow just fine, together.

Freedom. Let plants roam. I try to plan out the flow of the garden so that the rambling summer squash vines don’t invade the more controlled eggplants and tomatoes but in the end, the plants do what they want. I gently nudge them and tie them together on sticks and cages. Plants like people need direction, support. But don’t give them too much instruction. They’ll find the warmth they need, after they figure out which path is best for them.

Share.  There is nothing like the taste of juicy homegrown tomatoes or the tangy punch of garden leeks except the glory of sharing something you’ve grown with a friend.  

Letting Go. There is no perfection in the garden. I love getting my fingers dirty, tending the baby plants, sowing the growing fruit. But it isn’t orderly or pretty. I am usually a sweaty, buggy mess after I’ve spent time in the garden. And despite my best efforts in May to pristinely plant seeds in perfect rows, by July the garden is a twisty, twirly magical mass of green, ready to burst with the season’s bounty. 

Then just a few short weeks later, the vines wither, the fruit is picked, and even the weeds grow weary. Summer ends. 

And that’s when I make my ceremonial sauce--to remember--summer in the garden.

(Not) Ready

“I made my lunch!” Will says, as I walk into the kitchen.

You what? I examine the perfectly made peanut butter and banana sandwich. “Want me to cut it in half?” I ask. “Sure,” he says, throwing me a mom bone.

“Just one!” John says, as I start snapping pictures before they take off on first day adventures.

Just one? Just one! He didn’t care how many I took last year...

I usually relish in this time of year. In throwing on the obligatory sweater as the first cool breeze blows. In keeping careful watch for dots of crimson on the trees. And hints of holiday in the magazines and flyers gracing our mailbox. 

But not this year. I want more summer. 

I’m not complaining exactly. We had a good, no great, summer. 

We hosted a family reunion, visited family and friends at lakes and the ocean, welcomed new little cousins...and even our very own dog Daisy.

But for some reason, I’m just not ready. 

For long, lingering, sunny days to turn short, cool, reflective.

For swirling schedules filled with scholarly expectations and practices and rehearsals and...

I watch the boys take off down the walkway, then cross the road (after looking twice just like I taught them). By themselves. Never looking back. 

And I realize it doesn’t matter that I’m not ready. They are.


I pace back and forth “working” in the dining room. The only room in my house with a clear view of the mailbox. Today is the day. Teacher Assignment Day.
The phone rings. A reminder that someone else’s mail has already arrived. My boys, for whom the paper in the envelope holds the names of their teachers for this year, are nowhere to be found. They are on their annual summer getaway with their grandparents. They are not losing any sleep or rearranging their day, or even giving a second thought to who their teacher is this year.
Next week, they will be home and surrounded by friends who will ask the obligatory “Who do you have?” They’ll be happy or a little sad as they piece together their new school family. But that’s it, just another day, just another year.
So why do I care so much?
I answer the phone. “Not yet. Call you as soon as I get it.” It is my almost first grader’s best friend’s mother.
I come from a family of teachers. Both of my sisters are teachers. My parents were teachers. My grandparents were teachers. Growing up I spent weekends and vacations and pretty much every waking minute with teachers.
I have ultimate respect for the profession: for the tireless, non-stop energy and stamina it takes to shape 20 plus little minds each year. I have so much respect for the profession that I didn’t go into it. I know it’s a calling and I didn’t have it.
I also know that teachers come in all shapes, sizes and stages of life. Some are tall, some are short, some are cheery, some rarely crack a smile. They have good years and bad years. They fall in love, give birth, care for dying parents, get divorced, mourn loved ones and get sick. They are energized by the newest reading techniques and overwhelmed by endless testing. They have, do and feel it all. Because — they are human.
As a daughter and sister, I know that good teachers hold their own through it all. But as a parent, I fight the urge to crave the perfect teacher. After all, I only have two kids with one childhood. I want the best education’s got. I want the trifecta: teachers who love their jobs, get my kids and teach them things too.
My father reminded me last summer, right around this time, that “It’s good for kids to experience all kinds of personalities, to get them ready for the world.” I nodded in obedient agreement and then thought, “Ready for the world? Just let it be a good year.”
But I do want them to be ready for the world, to experience the smile of the new teacher excited by the warm glow of learning. And the mastery of the “seen it all, done it all” type who knows how to crack the “I can’t do it” code. But most of all, I want the only other person who spends seven hours a day with them to look into their eyes and see potential.
After the paper with their teacher assignment arrives, I will try to smile and be happy with whatever name it reveals. I will try not to launch through my mental database and into discovery mode seeking out parents who’ve gone this way before. I will try not to care too deeply about the sober ratings of pool parents. Or, passing parents at the grocery store who provide a vague, “You’ll like her.”
I wonder if the teachers are lighting up the phone lines on this day? “Oh no! Not her.” Or, “Fantastic! I was hoping I’d get a group of energetic boys this year.” More likely they’re swapping not so cryptic reviews of the parents, because I’d imagine, some (throat clear) are easier than others.
I hope that I am one of the good parents, the ones with whom the teachers want to work.
I also hope that someday I will care a little less and trust a little more.
And I hope my son gets Mrs.  wait … hold that thought. Moment of truth, the mailman is finally here!

This piece ran in the Hartford Courant, August 27, 2011.


Where can you pay thousands of dollars to wait in lines that stretch for miles in the hot blazing sun for the opportunity to get pummeled by buckets of water or risk losing your over-priced lunch in gravity defying poses? 

Disney of course!

We took our second family voyage to Disney World last week. It was a blast. Watching our boys, 10 and 8, zoom from park to park, ride to ride, declaring whatever they’d just experienced, “The best ride ever!”

Three years ago when we visited, for the first time, we were still in the hunker down years. Logistics reigned. 

“Where is the nearest bathroom?”
 “Don’t walk too far ahead!” 
“Quick get the sunscreen!”

It's a Small Small (Tired) World
But this time was different. There was the distinct feeling that they were leading us. Willing their parents, grandparents, and aunt enough energy to make it around the next bend. Challenging us to go beyond the comforts of gravity and dry clothes to catch the next adrenaline rush. For the boys, there was a “not enough time” feeling in the air.  

While we, the adult contingency, rode every wave right along side our young comrades counting down the minutes until we could plant ourselves firmly in a chair or perhaps enjoy an end-of-day adult beverage.

On day five of our vacation, Rob and I had our dreams come true when the grandparents offered to take our little Disney junkies for the day, while we languished by the pool. Aaaahhh.

It didn’t matter that the dark clouds hovered by mid-morning or that torrential rain set in around noon. We lingered, under cover, looking out over the resort infinity pool, doing absolutely nothing and loving every minute. 

By the next morning we were refreshed and ready. To turn the corner on our final day of amusement park adventures. 

It’s true what they say: Youth is wasted on the young. 

Except at Disney. Disney is made for the young. And I don’t mean the young at heart. I mean the true blue young. 

But for those of us no longer in that category, it’s still magic to go back. To a place where mice never age and parades spontaneously erupt under a castle lit sky. 

To make little dreams come true.


7:45 am Wednesday morning. One of those days. An impossible, set-myself-up-to-fail, but I’m giving it the old college try kind of day.

A quick jaunt (okay it’s at least five miles out of my way, but it’s MY place) to get my morning cup of adrenaline, then to work earlier than usual so that in two hours I can make it to Field Day to watch my two growing up way too fast buggers ride around in a wagon and take turns wrapping their teacher up with toilet paper.

(What ever happened to Field Day anyway? When I was in elementary school we’d sweat it out with the 50 yard dash and the 1 mile run. Survival of the fittest literally. But that’s a whole other blog.)

Still, Field Day is an important milestone. It marks the ending of another school year and a day of pure fun for my second and fourth grader who barely slept due to extreme excitement.

In order to get there however, I have to make four phone calls and finish two updates for a Board Meeting at 4 o’clock. And, I have to figure out what to leave the babysitter to feed the boys because when Rob walks through the door, our relay continues with one kid going to lacrosse and the other golf.

8:00 am With any luck, I’ll be in my office by 8:15 am. I love my commute. Long enough to mentally wind through the day, not long enough to get too wound up.

8:02 am Uh-oh. Massive traffic. What the hell? Is this Hartford or Boston?

8:09 am I call a co-worker, get a project underway and momentarily feel better until...I realize that during the seven minute phone call I’ve moved maybe 10 feet.

8:15 am Might as well catch up on what’s going on in the world. I turn the radio on. A song is blaring, I start to switch the station to news but then I don’t. Because it’s Pat Benetar. 

“You’re a heartbreaker, dream maker, love taker, don’t you mess around with me. No! No! No!” 

Is there anything better than a good Pat Benetar song? 

8:20 am “I heat up, I can’t cool down, you’ve got me spinning round and round. Round and round, round and round it goes where it stops no one knows. Abra abracadabra...I wanna reach out and grab you...”

Luckily it didn’t stop. 

8:30 am “I was dreamin’ when I wrote this. Forgive me if it goes astray. But when I woke up this mornin’ could of sworn it was judgement day. Yeah they say two thousand zero zero party over, oops out of time. So tonight I’m going to party like it’s 1999.”

From there I lost track of time. When I finally did reach the office it was 1989 and it didn’t matter,“No! No! No!”

The day no longer felt insurmountable. Thanks to the 80s at 8.

“Round and round, round and round it goes, where it stops no one knows...”

Unc Unc

It’s a fact that we all wrestle with, in varying degrees of unrest and resolution. We are all going to die, someday. But sometimes someday is way too soon and a person’s departure leaves a void that is unimaginable.
Unc Unc, Holly & Dad
At Uncle Harry & Aunt Jane's Wedding, 1977

My Uncle Harry, my Dad’s only sibling, passed away suddenly last month at the age of 61. 

He was known to us as Unc Unc. The name suited him perfectly. He was a man of many sound effects and a laugh that kept us swimming in a sea of silly.

But what I remember most is how he made me feel. Special. How he looked at me. With admiration. And how it was to be with him. Fun. 

Growing up, when something of note would happen, I’d think, “I can’t wait to tell Uncle Harry.” It may have been months before I saw him next, but when I did, it always felt like he was anticipating, looking forward to my ramblings. He’d listen and listen, interject a bit and then listen some more. 

He was a universal, unconditional listener. That was obvious at his funeral as a line of people wrapped around the church several times, just waiting to get in. 

The day felt more like a reunion than a funeral. As family and friends struggled in shock and sadness, there were endless stories. Of Harry’s kindness, sense of humor, wit, athletic prowess and loving presence. He was simply an amazing friend, son, brother, husband, father and grandfather. And Uncle.

A couple days after the service, my sister had a dream that she saw Uncle Harry and told him how many people were there to honor his memory, his life. In her dream he said, “Well what else do people have to do on a Thursday morning?”

We laughed. Because that is something he would have said. Never once acknowledging that those people would have waited in a snowstorm, because he would have done the same for them.

On this day of remembering, we remember Unc Unc. You are here in our hearts, never to be forgotten.


I read a lot of parenting paraphernalia when John was little. Most of it I don’t recall, but there was one piece of advice that stuck: 

“Whenever you look into your child’s eyes: smile.” 

I remember thinking the message was profound. A simple way of letting my budding little life know he was loved, appreciated. And, who doesn’t like a smile thrown their way? I was also fairly confident it was something I could pull off while wandering around in my then sleepless stupor.

And so after naps, during diaper changes, feeding time, car seat transitions, I’d try to remember to: smile. Not a big toothy “yippee” smile but an “I’m so glad you’re mine” smile. 

Two things immediately happened. 

John started to smile back. And, I realized the smile regimen was as good for me as it was for him. 

Smiles are catchy.

Ten years later, I no longer consciously think to smile when my boys walk in the room (I hope by now it’s a habit). And let’s face it when cooing babies turn into tantrumy toddlers and precocious pre-teens, all that smiling can be a little more...um, challenging.

Last weekend John performed in his first musical theatrical production. For regular readers of this blog, this was the performance that I kinda sorta had him audition for without him knowing. He is after all, my reluctant joiner, who prefers school and home to “out there” endeavors. 

John loved his time at the Children’s Theatre. Every Saturday he happily attended rehearsals, without ever once saying, “Do I have to go?” And he was excited to share his production with the steady stream of family and friends who attended.

Knowing how happy he’d been rehearsing and how excited he was to be part of the production, I was a little surprised to see how timid he was as we watched the first production. It was clear he was having a good time but he wasn’t his usual self.

I approached the subject delicately on the way home in the car.

“How did it feel to be up there?” I asked.

“Great!” he said, then after a long pause. “Mom can you sit somewhere different for the next show?”

“Sure, why?” I asked.

“The people in front of me weren’t smiling and it made me wonder if I was doing a good job.”

“Some people are smile-challenged John,” I responded.

“Smile what?” he asked.

“Smiling isn’t their thing,” I said. 

The next afternoon I arrived an hour early with John. Before he left to join his cast mates, John directed me to the area where he wanted me to sit. Second row, stage right. 

Forty minutes later a familiar face walked through the door. It was Mrs. Bankers, from John’s school. Seeing her always-present smile, made me smile, for so many reasons.

Mrs. Bankers routinely lights up the Buttonball Lane Elementary School office. She is the kind of person that notices, everything. She’s never too busy to say hello or offer comfort. She senses when a child (or a parent) is lost or not feeling quite right. Her joy is contagious. 
“Thanks for saving me a seat,” she said with her trademark smile.

Thanks for bringing your smile, I thought.

As the lights dimmed and the music began, I could see John’s big blue eyes poke out from the back of the curtain. As soon as he saw us in our strategically appointed seats, I could see him smile. 

Over the next hour and a half we sat in the little theatre watching children ranging from seven to seventeen sing, dance and act their hearts out while we laughed, clapped and shed a tear or two.

I could see John’s confidence grow with each passing song. With each passing smile.

I know I won’t always be able to be John’s surrogate smiler, willing him through every nerve wracking endeavor. But I hope he’ll always remember: Smiles are catchy. And like good advice, they never grow old.  

Spring Cleaning

Spring: A time to indulge the urge to purge. Get rid of the old, make room for the new.

This year I started with the mudroom closet. It’s the nerve center of our home. Sporting equipment, recyclable grocery bags, overflow food and drink, coolers, shoes. You name it, it’s in there.

First I took everything out of the closet. Seeing the contents lying on the floor I realize I’ve upset the organizational universe. What stays? What goes? This is my sorting routine. Drag it all out, assess the damage, make a plan and go.  An hour later, my mudroom closet has shed the long winter months and is ready for prime time.

Next on to the office. Ugh. The problem is (as if there’s just one) the items that are relegated to the office are of varying levels of importance. Tax receipts, articles with dog ears at the corner, random sheets of paper with passwords to on-line stuff, passport renewal forms...and on and on. Theoretically everything needs a second look, just in case. 

I sort the papers into categories. It’s an interesting exercise to see my life before me, in piles. 

There is the Household pile: quotes from painters, appliance repairs, paint swatches, car repair receipts, etc.

The Creative pile: random ideas strewn on napkins and in notebooks (lots of those) and articles marked with possible points of inspiration. 

The Volunteer pile: bits of information from various events and committees. Every year I think, “I should save that for the next person.” But then I end up doing the event again, forget that I have the information and re-invent the wheel.

But by far the biggest pile is the Kid pile. I consider myself a perpetual purger in this category. It is not uncommon to hear “Why is this in the trash?” as the boys discover their latest spelling endeavor smeared by coffee grinds and cucumber peels. It’s not that I don’t devour every last math moment but there are so many. And the priceless specimens go right to the basement, to the bins labeled John and Will. So where did all this come from?

I commence sorting and soon realize this was the wrong category to start with, it is much easier to toss magazine articles and old bills than memories. Which is how, of course, the office ended up this way in the first place. 

One of the last crinkled up pieces of paper I find is Will’s. He turns 8 this week which doesn’t bode well for me finding this particular specimen. But it was just the Mom moment I was looking for, to commemorate the milestone.

Will was less than enthusiastic about preschool. I’d been used to his older brother skipping in to school like he owned the place and so Will’s reluctance caught me off guard. On the very first day I stood in the pick-up line watching his classmates leave with big manilla posters filled with words and cutout people. When Will came out, he was empty-handed. “He decided not to participate in the craft today,” the teacher said. “But he did draw you something.” She handed me a paper. Will stared at me, with a let’s go look. 

I didn’t look at the drawing until we reached the car. 

“Well thank you,” I said finally. It was a drawing, drawing #1, of me in stick form with long rainbow hair and the words I Love You Mom. And in the middle of my legs (I had no arms) there were two dots.  

“What are these?” I asked.

“Knees,” he said. “You can’t stand without them.” 

That’s my Will. A profound little man dedicated to facts with a dose of sentimentality mixed in. 

From that day forward, I received the same drawing: each day, every day at pick-up. The only thing that ever changed was the message. 

There was something about the regularity of the drawings that left me unable to decide which ones to keep and which ones to recycle. So I kept them all. 

I suppose back then I thought there would be a day, like this day, when I would weed out, keep a couple and discard the rest. 

I stare at the drawing, the armless figure with free flowing rainbow hair and a gargantuan smile, my two knees firmly planted in the middle of my long long legs.

Spring: A time to keep the old to appreciate the new.

At least that’s what I tell myself as I trek downstairs to the basement bins. And carefully place this me with all the other mes, where it belongs.