A very special Christmas gift. I can't even guess the year. Less than twenty years ago, and more than 15. A holiday celebration in my parents' home. In spite of forgetting the year I remember every detail of the exchange. The smile on my mom's face as I opened the package. My wail when I saw the contents, "but these are yours!" And then...we cried together. Over sterling and crystal vanity jars. They sat on Mom's dressing table for 20 years. On her mother's for a lifetime before that.
I didn't want the gift because I knew what it meant. I wanted my mother; not her jars. Quite persistently throughout Christmas day, she shared their history. Grudgingly, I took them home and placed them on a shelf. The shift was gradual. One day I opened a lid and dropped in a lock of hair….then a cub scout patch. The vanity jars became guardians for those little bits of childhood--a baseball card, a dairy queen whistle
, baby teeth and more--that made me smile. Precious vessels for the memories of my precious children.
As my children left the nest the jars held less of theirs...and more of mine. I realized one would be perfect for my makeup brushes. Another could hold delicate necklaces and the small one would be good for earrings. They were lovely to look at. And now I looked at them and used them every day.
The fourth was the most unusual--the jar with a hair receiver lid. "After brushing her hair before bed, a women cleaned the brush and placed the collected hair in her receiver jar." Now I smile to remember Mom's story. Recently needing a safety pin, I emptied that jar. Instead of the fastener came a sudden rush of memories. I wailed, just like that far away Christmas. With tears in my eyes I realized the jar held much more than safety pins, buttons and cotton balls. At the very bottom…a baby tooth. Who knew that could be so potent!
At last grateful for her gift, I can put this in perspective. My mother brought the vanity jars home after her mother was already gone. Mom saw a chance to do something different. By sharing her history in person I have far more than a collection of antique jars. It doesn't really matter but I wish I could remember what Mom kept in them. Memories, I guess.
How does love feel? On a recent walk my thoughts wandered to far away friends. They moved several years ago and it was wrenching. They were my support system and I felt hurt, grief and even anger when they left. Although on this particular day I felt no loss. In fact, it was just the opposite. My heart literally swelled as fond remembrance washed over me. That's what love feels like! The feeling was so powerful it startled me. How long had it been since I felt this kind of love?
I ran through a somber checklist. The losses were numerous. When I had counted ten years of heartache, pain and loss I stopped. My grief was a habit. When did charming memories of my precious babies transform to a thousand tearful goodbyes? When did copious meals shared with laughing friends become a bitter taste in my mouth?
I had refused to let go. Of the hurt. I told myself I had moved on. I told myself I was over it. The truth was an ugly claw had grasped my heart. And held on so tightly that all I could feel was the poignant moment of loss. No before and no after. I was perfectly balanced on the point of pain.
Since that day my intention is to practice love. Last year I read a profound article in Prevention Magazine. I hoped to credit the author but my copy has gone missing. She described an exercise practiced in meditation. Hold an image in your cupped hands or your heart and imagine happiness. Imagine your mate at his happiest. Imagine yourself happy. Do this daily and after a time you will feel a change in your own heart. Love. You will feel the love of forgiveness and acceptance.