Last week I was by myself for about an hour. Unbelievable but true.
I had errands to run and I passed an estate sale at a house I’ve always adored and decided to stop.
I was browsing through this gorgeous old house. And in each room the typical estate sale tables were set up with the house’s contents displayed and priced.
Except they didn’t really belong to the house per say.
They belonged to the family who once lived here, then once the children moved out, it all belonged to the older couple that lived there together, and then once the father passed away, the mother who lived alone for years and then too, passed away recently. The mother who set this house up, raised the children, purchased all these things to make this lovely house a home was gone. The last one to leave.
And the more I thought about this, the more melancholy I got. As I browsed the contents of her kitchen, and then the leftover stash in the basement, I headed up to the bedrooms. Five in all, one I believe was a play room once. Windows everywhere, with simple white curtains. She made them herself, I could tell. Because her sewing machine looked well used and was for sale in one of the bedrooms. In the play room, I chose two little wind up Fisher Price music boxes circa 1970. I remember owning one myself. There was a beautiful old doll retro looking doll stroller, and some old Barbies, a Fisher Price school house, and some wooden puzzles and dusty Legos.
I started feeling really really melancholy.
And then I went into the last bedroom.
And on a table there were sheet sets.
You know, like EVERY estate sale has.
Tablecloths on hangers and sheet sets folded neatly, tied up and marked Twin, or Full, or Queen.
The sheet sets had big bright flowers on them. Like 1960’s sort of looking sheet sets do.
And that’s when I lost it.
That’s when I slammed my sunglasses down on my face, and high-tailed it out of there as quick as I could, back to the parking lot across the street where my car sat.
I couldn’t stop crying. “What the heck is wrong with me?” I thought.
“How can sheet sets make me so sad? Get a grip for God’s sake.”
But I couldn’t.
Because it just hit me all at once.
I am going to die.
I am going to die.
And everything that represents all the work I’ve done, things I’ve touched thousands of times, symbols of my life, all the toys I’ve lovingly picked out for my sweet little babies and children, the rugs I’ve vacuumed so many times I couldn’t count, the pots I’ve cooked in to make meals for my family day after day, all the sheet sets I’ve washed and folded countless times, the house that I will have spent a lifetime coercing into a refuge for myself and my family,
it will ALL still be here,
looking like nothing much more than ordinary old things,
but I’ll be gone.
To someone else, all that stuff will just look like junk. People I don’t know might rifle through it. They’ll think, “Now why in heavens would someone keep sheet sets from the 1960’s? Silly old lady.”
And I won’t be here to tell them, first,
To keep their gosh darn hands off my clean, nicely folded sheet sets.
And second, that my precious little freshly bathed, damp-haired babies slept on those sheet sets and they are so much more than just outdated old pieces of cotton.
And I thought of my own little children and how I have such a fond memory of picking out some particular shark and surfboard sheets one day 5 years ago.
I remember being so excited to move into a house I knew would be home forever, and I ran out to pick up some new bedding that my little boys would love and found these adorable sheets on sale. The kind of perfect find that makes a mom’s day. Exactly what I was looking for. I had spent hours and hours planning the children’s bedrooms with them, and had a notebook with swatches and ideas. I knew something fun would ease their transition into a new room, a new house, a new place to sleep. Always scary at first, till it becomes home and you can’t imagine any place else.
I know that as years would go buy and the tossing and turning and general wear and tear and washings would make those sheets thin, one day I would say to myself, “You know, I should really get some new sheets for these two little boys who aren’t really little anymore.”
But I could never actually bring myself to replace them. I would stop and think that these shark and surfboard sheets trigger the memory of two little, little boys…the ones I used to be able to read stories to at night, before they could read themselves. The boys that I used to bathe, before they insisted on showers. The boys that would wear matching pajamas from Carters, before they wouldn’t be caught dead in matching pajamas from Carters.
And I’d know that those sheets could last one more year. Who needs the hassle anyways? The trend now-a-days is all frugality, so I’d tell myself. I’d sew up a tiny hole I noticed and put some new elastic in. Good as new. Righto.
I’d push the thought of the weirdness of “hanging onto old sheets just because you have problems with your children growing older” thought out of my head and move on with my day. I’d come to realize that once I was someone who thought it was weird to have attachment to material things, that once I was a girl who wasn’t one bit sentimental, and that I once thought I’d live forever…or just chose to never think about the hands of time. I thought my children would be young forever, I thought my role of mother would never change. I thought I’d live in MY nirvana as long as I wished to…making a home, with my husband by my side and with my little ones near me at all times.
And here at the estate sale, that fallacy of that thought caught up with me. It pushed me over, punched me in the gut while I was down, and screamed, “Time flies and then you are dead!” right in my face, while I was still keeled over from the first punch. (That being the Fisher Price toys.)
I still haven’t come to grips with it.
Here’s the cold hard truth of what I’m feeling right now.
What if you go through your whole life wishing back years you’ve already lived?
What if you DON’T want to accept that the best is yet to come, but wish for years gone by?
For as long as you live?
Is part of growing older always surrendering bit by bit to this margin of time that you have no control over? Because that doesn’t sound to easy to me. Not too promising to my state of mind in the future if flowered sheet sets at random estate sales put me into a funk I can’t escape from.
I don’t know if I can keep that up.
And that stinks.
It really does.
I am grateful for my life.
I am grateful that I’m alive.
I know that there are many people who have received much less time than me.
But I want everything to stand still.
Not now, but 2 years ago I wanted everything to stop.
Will I move on?
I don’t want to.
Like a petulant child, I want to stomp my foot down and scream, “STOP because I said SO!”
And time isn’t listening.
I must somehow come to grips with the fact that it never will.