Chronicles of a Paper Bag

I sat there on that park bench and let the wind surround me. I didn't hold my hair away from my face like I  normally would have. Vanity suddenly didn't seem very important in that moment. I allowed my highlighted strands to cover my eyes and then eventually, nose. I was tired of resisting. It felt good to finally let go and allow something beyond my control engulf me for once. In between locks of hair, I saw a brown paper bag approaching me. It appeared to be stuck in its own wind tunnel, unaffected by the pattern of wind blowing everything else to the north. It was bobbing up and down as though it were dancing.

Most people see beautiful feathers or leaves prancing in the open air. I see a brown paper bag. Laughing to myself, I watched it maneuver over to the table of businessmen next to me and lean up against the empty chair across from them. I wondered where the paper bag had come from and where it had begun its journey. I imagined that it was trying to find its way home. Perhaps some garbage can was calling its name yet the brown bag didn't know how to quite find its way inside it.

Then it hit me. I was on a similar journey. I too was trying to find my way back home. Life had made me a nomad and I hadn't even realized it. I was on a constant search for something to stifle the wind. In that moment, in my favorite park, I realized instead of shielding myself from the breeze I should have been embracing it.

I have laughed, held my head high and basically kept on a brave face the last couple of years, but the truth was that the breeze was more than me. Instead of making peace with it, I was fighting it. And in that fight, I was getting knocked down. 

I had been uprooted the last few years. Home was where my mother had been. It was where our family of five had once resided at 7 Fenway Court. It was where I felt safe, secure, loved and now it was all gone.  My mother had passed and the house had been sold. I had been married for four and a half years and had lived with my husband for over five, yet I had called my parent's house my home. This way of thinking was all wrong.

After my mother left this world, I picked up the pieces with my husband and daughter.  I had been through the loss of my beloved sister ten years prior and had assumed to have mastered the tools I would need to get through the loss of my mother. What I didn't count on however was to feel the weight of both of their losses at the same time, which bizarrely didn't occur until a year and a half after my mother left.

I was a pillar of strength and optimism the first year. In my heart there was a reason for everything and I always found beauty around me. I honestly counted myself blessed for having had two amazing women in my life.

It is however amazing how your soul can infinitely know that something doesn't seem right, even when you are telling your head that you have a handle on everything. This in itself is a true testament of evidence for our souls. It was as though I had lost my sister all over again. The wound was fresh and man, was it deep. Because I hadn't expected this to resurface, I wasn't prepared for the fall.

I was using my paper bag and filling it up as a keepsake for all the things that had hurt me in my life instead of using it to throw everything bad out.  My envy for other people's ordinary lives was absorbing me.  I longed to just pick up the phone and tell my mother all about what my daughter had done that day. I fantasized about what my sister and I would be doing with our children together because she was six years older than me and surely would have had kids by now.

It all didn't seem fair and I was angry at myself for feeling this way. I was always the one to lift people up, so why couldn't I do that for myself now? It wasn't like me to harbor those type of feelings. I knew my mother and sister wanted better for me.  I knew that in my heart and then found evidence of this in my dreams.

My beautiful mother came to me one night. She looked happy, youthful and something in her eyes told me she was at great peace.  This peace radiated off her, making me instantly feel safe. I asked her if she saw me and knew everything I was doing in my life. Did she see Maddie? The fabulous dress I had on the other day? The mean guy from my office that got put in his place?

"Everything, cutie," She smiled and touched my face with her warm hands.

Then, just like her, she added with a chuckle, "Behave yourself, I can see more now than I used to!" and she winked.

Then suddenly the peace in her eyes changed to concern, " I don't watch all the time though. I can't. I just hate to see you sad."  It was like getting bitch slapped from heaven. She had come to me so happy, yet my sadness still affected her as it would have when she was here. I woke up with a sense of urgency.

Liz had spoken. Gavel down. I let myself grieve and I was probably better for it, but now it was time to go and play in the wind again.  I had so much to be happy about and so much to celebrate in my life.

I sat there in Bryant Park, in that gentle breeze and vowed to not waste another second feeling sorry for myself. Sure I would miss my two angels, but it was important that I not use them as a crutch in my life.  It was time to gather all of the things that were bothering me and put them in the trash. More importantly, it was time to remember what I was thankful for.

As if on queue, I heard my daughter's voice, "Mommy, mommy!" My heart sang. I got up from the park bench and held out my arms. That little spitfire came running over and nearly knocked me to the ground when she jumped into my arms. There simply aren't many moments better than this. I regained my balance, picked her up and squeezed her tight.

"Mommy, I knock-a-you over!" she giggled triumphantly while I kissed her rosy cheeks.

When I opened my eyes I saw my husband standing in front of us with two hot chocolates in hand. My favorite warm beverage on the first cold day of the season, accompanied by the two loves of my life..... No, it really did not get better than that.

Then my text message sounded. My sister was group texting the family with a few pictures of her new home. She was happy.

Dad texted me asking, "How do I know if everyone is on the text or not when I answer your sister. Love, Dad."  The fact that he signed his texts cracked me up.

"Hmm, you know how you are texting just me now?" I sent back.

"Yes," he said. I've noticed that once Dad was in convo with someone, signatures are no longer warranted.

"It works the same way. Isn't technology grand?" I remarked back.

"Once a smartass, always a smartass," Dad wrote back, adding a smiley face.

Dad was out and about with his new lady. He was getting back to "happy" too.

My husband and I each took my daughter's hand and counted our steps before lifting her up on three. Life, in all it's complexities sometimes was quite simple. As we were making our way towards the northeast exit of the park, Maddie loosened her grip on our hands.

"A weaf! A pitty wed, weaf!" Maddie shouted.

Sitting in front of us was a beautiful, red leaf. Maddie was right, it really was pitty.

Madison picked it up and held it in both hands as though it had some significant weight to it.

"What you got there, munchkin?" My husband asked her.

"A weaf!" Maddie excitedly told him.

"Would you like to take that home with us?" I asked her.

"Suuure,"she said melting my heart with her little two-year-old, New Yawk accent. I pictured her painting someone's nails while chomping on a piece of gum.

Madison walked with the leaf like she was walking a candle across the alter in church. She watched it very carefully and was very deliberate with her footing.

Maddie stopped and held the leaf up towards me, "Mommy, this is you weaf."

"What was that, sweetie?"

"You can have the weaf. I'll take Sofia," she said holding out her hand as the sun beamed on her little face. She is obsessed with the Disney show, "Sofia the First" and has been through at least eight Sofia dolls, no exaggeration. I would guesstimate that five of the eight were runaways, having thrown themselves from her stroller. I mean toddlers are pretty feisty, there are only so many opportunities to get away from them.

So we exchanged our goods. A doll for a leaf. No more ugly paper bags for me. My life deserved a gorgeous crimson leaf to help illustrate my journey. Everyone's life does, but I wouldn't be a mother without knowing that leaf was really my daughter's. I would spend the rest of my life helping her find the beauty in the storms she would encounter. The beauty that is the leaf instead of the bulky brown bag.

It takes courage to be thankful and acknowledge that your life really is wonderful. I say this because when you recognize the good things in your life, the excuses that once held you back are no longer relevant. The only thing left is the open air to go and embrace....


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