There are mere hours left to the fading summer. We are sipping in every moment, savoring and stretching time... sad a bit to say goodbye to a lazier schedule, but ready for the promise of a new school year. Like so many other life experiences, it's an emotional tug of extremes.
It'll still be warm though she's back in class.
The maples and oaks still swaying green leaves. Oranges and Reds are a ways off.
Iced tea still chills in the fridge as fresh August tomatoes and cucumbers line the crisper drawer.
Pink petunias surround the patio, lingering mosquitoes come for supper as the sun still lights the evening sky, but this annual shift in time brings change... a change we feel both ways about.
We want it.
We hate it.
We receive it.
My little girl is 13. She's entering 8th grade. I am trying not to say it, not to feel it but it's racing, this "being a mom" thing.
I have this one chance, with this one child.
Stakes are so high, it makes me shake sometimes.
I shape my schedule and sense of self-accomplishment around her journey, obsessing with the passage of time, acting like it's going faster than it actually is. I need to be careful with that, but it's a natural flow it seems... to worry, to fret, to imagine I'm already dropping her off at college as her 13 year old-self with baby blanket in tow.
I'll handle that when it comes, but please not now.
This urgency keeps me intentional about my words and actions and relationships and work, so it's good. Right?
We hit the mall for some "back-to-school" fashion.
She's been read the rules before we get in the car.
"Honey, there's a specific amount of cash in my purse. We can't spend it all, let alone spend beyond it. We will go into two stores and focus on the exact items from our list. Your savings account is very special to you. We finally have some dollars in there you've been proud to earn. Preserving that exact feeling is what we want to capture. Trust me, you'll thank me later. Remember our celebration the other day when you made the deposit? Let's hold on to that when we browse the aisles with all those impulse purchases begging to be snatched off the shelves. As cute as the tank tops on the clearance rack are, they won't be cute for long and within weeks you may wish you wouldn't have chosen them. Keep your mind very focused on our goals. You have big dreams and they cost. Those bigger plans will last longer than a tank top. Let's dream together and blow past what distracts us. Cool?"
We get to the parking lot.
I notice her patient demeanor already.
She's happy... laughing, phone tucked away, waiting for me to retrieve my purse and lock the doors. She's present and joyful.
This is euphoric.
She's in middle school and we're getting along.
I am in Mom heaven.
She's chatting away about school and how she can't wait to get there, and how much she loves math and her new teachers, instead of complaining about what she can't have.
I notice this intently, dramatically, profoundly.
She's growing up in the most beautiful ways. I want to cry, but geesh, this is just a trip to the mall. I compose myself. :o)
"We're going to those two stores, right?" I say.
"Yep," she quips with a darling grin.
We get to the racks of her dream wardrobe. I say nothing except, "So, where shall we start?"
She goes to the salesclerk, asks for her size, smiles over her shoulder at me, prances off to the fitting room, draws the curtain, and I wait. While she does her business shuffling through more items than she needs, I stand with other patient and not-so-patient moms.
I'm feeling proud.
This yearly routine isn't awful.
I thought it would be.
She whips open the curtain, smiling.
She's found the perfect thing, for the perfect price, with money to spare.
She's not negotiating, bargaining, sneaking.
She's happy with what she found, not limited by my earlier speech at all.
We proceed to the check-out.
There are glass bowls and shelves spilling over with lipsticks and lotions and doodads suited for every teenagers wish.
It's annoying, really.
I cannot believe this, but we're standing in the long line right next to all that stuff and she's not asking, or begging for any of it.
She waits patiently for her items to be wrapped in pretty pink tissues, and neatly placed in the striped bag and then with the most exquisite mix of little girl innocent charm and young lady wisdom, she quips, "Thank you so much," to the salesclerk, then to me, "This is exactly what I wanted. Thank you so, so much."
A Tsunami of gratitude, nearly knocks me over.
Maybe this season where we have so little will be the poignant moment she looks back on as the one that shaped her the most. What we set out for that day was exactly what we got. She was absolutely, completely just fine with walking through that long corridor of the mall, past so many stores enswathed with multitudes of things she really needs, and not only not buying them, but realizing she's just fine without them.
They can wait.
She can wait.
She's actually telling me how "just fine" it is if we wait to get her jeans and new shoes til "we pay the light and gas bill first."
This is my kid.
By goodness, I'm not sure if I've been prouder.
I ponder this... how many times do I get all caught-up thinking I "just have to have" what I actually do not need? Not at all.
What about that shiny oversized spoon that shines on the kitchen gadget store shelf making me think I'll use it to bake Macadamia Nut Cookies, I don't really feel good after I eat anyway?
I have perfectly usable spoons, for goodness sake.
What about the 8 pack of hot dog buns, we'll only use 4 of, the "buy one, get one half-off" summer sandals I won't wear because boot season is weeks away, and the dishcloths? Mine are ugly and torn and Target is running a 10% off sale on linens?
Wait, they're not that torn.
It goes on and on, doesn't it?
This is how our lives get out of control. This is why closets are jammed, drawers won't close, and our cholesterol rises sky high. We buy to cure what has broken us, but soon discover new towels don't mend - even if they are on sale.
It starts with those simple purchases, the ones under $10.00, that turn into 29.99, then two for $100.00, etc. We get sucked-in.
We can use what we buy most of the time, but need? That's another story.
Almost inevitably, we sit in our own space with what we currently have and if we're still for a moment, and we actually put that old dish rag in our hand, we'll wipe a counter with it and find it works perfectly, and we'll be all the better for holding on to that 20.00 in our wallet for something more important anyway.
Imagine that the peace you're looking for is actually in getting rid of and giving away, rather than buying more.
Maybe you can walk into a store and stick to your list and that will be enough.
More than enough.