When I was studying interior space planning for commercial applications, we were given a funeral parlor to redesign. It was a local business, and looked more like a pizza parlor than anything else to me. The walls had walnut formica paneling halfway up. The top part was a blue and green floral print wallpaper. Heavy drapes closed the windows off for privacy. When I went into measure the two viewing rooms, I realized I was not alone.
You have to forgive me – I was in my early twenties and I was not raised Catholic. But the bodies gave me a sense of purpose and drama. I decided to embellish on the theatrics. I drew up a stage on the diagonal. I thought about the kind of stage lights that give off a cloudy haziness. I wanted the body to be the focal point. I wanted 4 different colored upholstered light weight chairs that could be moved around to form spontaneous conversation groups. I was thinking sorbet colors – soft blueberry, raspberry, peach, and mango. I wanted soft peach or blueberry carpeting. I thought the viewing could serve as the transitionary send off. I wanted to allude to a heaven that I desperately wanted to believe in.
Do you know the commercial where a young mother is holding a cell phone and walking out of a house?She asks her mother about the house that had been on the market.It might even be the house next door. (PLEASE do not ask me what the commercial is selling.I can’t remember what I had for breakfast and besides whether it is a realtor or a phone company or dog food, it it irrelevant to my point!).Her mom tells her the house sold.The daughter says: “I know” and walks out of the house, up to her mom, kisses her, and lets her know that she was the buyer!
Well, that has become my favorite commercial ever since my cousin’s daughter moved into an apartment in the same condo building as my cousin.Why did her daughter do that?So that when her oldest gets dropped off from school, he can go directly to his grandparents and she can continue to work carefree for the rest of the day.
Am I the only mom who is wishing and hoping that will happen to her?I go to open houses in our neighborhood and pray.
I remember how hard it was to be a single mom, raise a daughter, and work two jobs.
Every time I call my daughter, I ask her if there is anything we can do to help.And every time, she tells me she is fine.That is how I know she is not yet mature.When you are truly mature, you can’t believe that anyone else is actually OFFERING help and you don’t hesitate – the definitive “yes” just pops out and you feel such relief and gratitude.
I have this theory that you take the average life span and you divide it in half.The first half you are just growing up and the second half you are an adult. Prehistoric man lived maybe thirty years. So, they became became adults when they were in their teens. Since we are living on average into our 80s, we can’t expect our “adult children” to be really mature until they are middle aged!!!!!I don’t know you feel about it, but my theory explains an awful lot of ridiculous behavior!
I think about my tiny house. When I was in my forties, I could still dream of winning money and having my house moved to the Hamptons and plopped down where it truly belongs. But those were dreams and when you are sixty you don’t have any dreams. Even my house might go the way of the wrecking ball. The perennial garden that I had planted with my own bare hands will get excavated as this small cottage will be taken down and a new two family investment home will go up in its stead. I am not particularly sad when I realize this. I am not shocked. It would make sense financially.
I just can’t wrap my head around how quickly the time went by.
Remember that baseball movie Field of Dreams and the really sentimental “deep”one liner:“If you build it, they will come?”I am telling you: IF YOU BUILT IT, THEY WILL SELL IT!!!!!
The thing that got me started thinking about my “stuff” was a conversation I had with a complete stranger while we were standing on line at the Marriott in Birmingham, AL.I was there visiting my step children.Out of the blue, the woman in front of me on the line for breakfast omelets started telling me that she was in Birmingham to clean out her mother’s estate.She could not believe how much stuff she had to go through.She said she wished that her mother had given her a manual full of stories because she could not fathom the reason behind the items.What did they mean to her mother?To her they were just junk.She could not make heads or tails out of the clutter and she did not have the time to go through all of it.She had to get back to Texas to work.
When we got home, I looked around my tiny beach cottage home.I saw all the paintings that no one will be able to store even if they wanted to.I saw my furniture through the eyes of my daughter and step children.I have Ethan Allen traditional pieces alongside garage sale chic.Every item has a story.But who had time to tell the story and who had time to listen?
And besides, the adult kids all want West Elm.They aren’t interest in our stuff.
Now, I will not lie.I am vain. But surely, you have figured that out, because it takes a certain amount of vanity to blog.
I used to imagine that what we had tried but had not accomplished in our life, would get accomplished in our death.I imagined our children – my one and my husband’s three – would come back to our house after “the funerals” and would stay and go through our stuff and talk and connect and find out who we really were by going through our stuff.I imagined “the girls” fingering my jewelry and dividing it up.I imagined them choosing which paintings and photographs they would take back with them and keep.I imagined “the boys” going through my husband’s sports collectibles and equipment and dividing them up.I imagined them sharing the photographs and swapping stories.
We are Jewish and we sit shiva for seven days.Surely that would allow enough time for all this bonding that never took place during our living years, to take place.
Then I remembered that my step children are not Jewish.They live far away.They have their own children and their own lives and they work.
So the question is:Do we do the children a favor and start getting rid of the excesses and NOT replace the stuff that we sell or give away or throw away?Or do we burden them by making them go through decades of our lives?
ADULT CHILDREN has to be an oxymoron. And it is confusing…very confusing.
A young colleague of mine once joked that her mother would still be breastfeeding her if she could.
You want your children to be independent but you also want them to want to live nearby.You want your children to be strong but you want to help them.You want your children to be self reliant but you don’t want them to be too proud to ask for support.
It is tricky.You love to shower them with things you never had and with support you never got.But you don’t want to smother them.You don’t want them to conclude that you don’t believe in them.But it really gives you pleasure to help. And you want to be part of their life. You have so much more experience and they are working and you have the time. However, when you help, you do not want to be taken advantage of, abused, or taken for granted.And you do not want to feel that you ARE the amazon fulfillment center or THE HELP.But you do want to be appreciated and loved.
A friend of mine answered “Yes” when I asked if we are trying to buy our children’s love.And I thought – that was refreshingly honest.I felt happy:Thank Goodness, I can afford tobuy a piece of my children’s love and Thank Goodness, I cannot afford to buy all of their love!!!