Also, is it okay for me to get rid of my baby blanket at this point?
This question was posed to me a few days ago via text message by my very intelligent and sensitive and sentimental and amazingly resilient 20-something-year-old daughter.
Oh my god...your blankie??!!!!
(lengthy pause) Noooooooo.I am smiling but also about to cry.
It's so gross. Like what will I ever do with it.
(lengthy pause) Turn it into a lingerie set?
Make it into a bra. And a thong.
After we both finished laughing, I added, “I'm turning this into my next blog post.” Something of which she, as my
daughter, was probably already completely aware. (And not to veer off topic, but seriously, a sense of humor is NOT an option if you want to triumph on your journey though this roller coaster of a life. So find any and every tidbit of a reason to laugh it up, my friends. Even if it's in between your tears.)
I assured her that even without the blankie, none of us would forget that she had once been a…baby.
As soon as the words left my mouth I realized this was actually more of a reassurance to myself, than to her.
I was the one who needed to hear the authoritative comfort of those words.
I then added that if she had any doubts about tossing it, she could always take a photo. To which she replied:
But if I don’t have the blanket, why would I want to look at a photo of it reminding me that I no longer have the blanket?
Or something to that effect. To which I gave myself a virtual pat on the back and thought, "What a brilliant daughter I have spawned!" And then in one final attempt at motherly advice, I offered up the following “safety zone” suggestion:
Well, you could always cut a 3” square and stash that somewhere…just in case.
And it was then that I told my daughter about the "memory quilt"...a concept that had floated through my grief-stricken brain in the months following Drew’s moving on. He had so many beautiful shirts when he died ~ some still with the dry-cleaning tags on them ~ and I had very briefly envisioned transforming them into a quilt. Or if I got really ambitious, three quilts. One for each of our children. Awww…what a sweet idea! It would be grief-crafting at its best. And then my sanity returned and I thought,
WHY? So my children can snuggle under a comfy quilt made of their dead father’s clothing?” Why not just stab them in the heart every day for all eternity!
I excitedly shared with her how, in another marvelous example of synchronicity, I had been watching an episode of Queer Eye on Netflix a few nights before in which the Fab 5 had the idea to present one of their make-over recipients a quilt…made out of his (drumroll please) dead father’s clothing. And I had immediately gushed to my computer screen,
Nooooo...Fab 5, don't do it! I already wrote a story about this ~ I'll send it to you. STOP. Please reconsider!
But the deed was done. It was too late. And as I had watched the made-over man run his fingers over squares of his father's suits and swim shorts with his mother beside him, in tears, I could only imagine them snuggling under it on Christmas Eve and still crying. In another ten years. And I thought out loud that perhaps a new cashmere blanket would have been a healthier idea.
So yesterday I searched my laptop for evidence of that essay of mine, The Memory Quilt.* And low and behold, I found it. In my archives. Penned at least a decade ago. A great little story that hadn’t “made it” into my book, The Irreverent Widow. And in reading it again all these years later, I knew my feelings hadn't changed since writing it.
I know everyone needs to grieve in their own way. To live in their own way. And to celebrate life in their own way. And if snuggling under a quilt made of a deceased loved one’s boxer shorts or rain coats or debutante gowns does it for you, then by all means, you should follow your heart and get out that sewing machine. As for me, I know what lifts me up and what pulls me down into the abyss of heartache and gloom. And I avoid that abyss whenever possible. Before losing two of my most beloved men I admittedly might have been advising my daughter to hang onto that baby blanket. Or making something out of it. But right now, I'm too busy laughing at the thought of her donning a bra and thong crafted from a ratty white blanket that has been puked upon, cried upon, sucked upon, and dragged over too many unsanitary floor surfaces to count…as well as washed a gazillion times to the point of thread-bareness.
After decades of struggling with letting go and holding on, I now know in my heart that the only way to be free is to be able to gently and slowly let go. Of people. Of places. Of things. Because the truth is, we are not meant to hang on. If we were meant to hang on...why would life be one constant stream of change? Clearly, the lesson here is to be open and free and fluid.
Don’t get me wrong. I love stuff. I love sentimental stuff, especially. But now I only hang onto the stuff that brings me joy and makes me smile. And I give myself permission to have those “things” and categories change over time. I mean, as an example, right now, having my beloved son Cole in that ammo box in the back of my car still brings my heart comfort and an odd sense of joy (even when I'm occasionally driving and chatting with him and crying)…and yet I know that in four months, I might know it’s time to shoot him out of a canon. (Something many of you have heard from me before and probably think I say only in jest, but believe me, it is a very real thing!)
I don’t hang onto stuff out of guilt or ancestral heritage or a sense that by getting rid of a physical object, I am somehow dishonoring the person it belonged to. Or forgetting part of our life together. Or forgetting them.
And I know that me snuggling under Drew’s freshly dry-cleaned shirts ~or my daughter wearing a thong made out of her baby blanket~ will not bring as much joy into our lives as a lovely linen-covered duvet. Or something from Bloomingdales' lingerie department.
Life provides us with enough pain...it’s our job to love ourselves enough to not create more and further our torment.
Take care of you. Let it go. Not all at once. But in stages. Breathe. Trust your heart. Smile. Be light.
Keep a few souvenirs in your heart and maybe on your bureau or in a box under your bed, but let the rest go. xoxo
* My essay, The Memory Quilt, will be posted here on my site soon. Please be patient as I work on organizing my boundless story archives!
(As always, I encourage you to spread the love, support and laughter. Share this piece with wild abandon…brighten someone’s day, make someone smile, lighten up someone’s life. BE THAT PERSON. )