Clearing Space

Aviva had an early release day (always sounds like getting out early for good behavior to me), so I picked her up at 11:30, the brown-bag lunch school provides in her hand. She ran to me, which is always such a great feeling when it happens. We went down to Greg’s office on College Street and ate lunch there – I had leftovers from my awesome breakfast in Vergennes with a new friend, someone who makes me feel alive and safe.

So V and I sat at the round table in the middle of the big, open space that is Spring Hill Solutions, eating our food. Every so often, she would sneak up dramatically behind Greg and then pinch or tickle or punch him. “Are you an Attention Child?” “No,” she’d answer. He’d try a second guess. “A Power Child?” “No! A punching child!” And then proceed to pummel him.

Later, we wandered back to our car, getting sidetracked at one of those boutiquey little stores I rarely wander into alone but that Aviva finds irresistible. We smelled every single one of the scented soy candles, each such a rich color, the kind I imagine lining a shelf at home but that actually end up dusty after not long. Then she discovered some very fun wallets, with sparkles and jewels and funky designs. She looked at the price tags and saw that they cost $33 each. As soon as she asked if she could get one, I was saying “Yes, yes, yes! With your own money! As soon as you start getting allowance!” (This will come with Family Meetings, which we’ll be starting up soonish as part of our Parenting On Track journey, teaching our kids how to spend, save, and give away money, what it can and can’t do for us).

“If you get $3 a week (we haven’t decided on the amount yet – the guideline is a dollar per year old, but we can’t afford that much), how many weeks would you have to save to buy that wallet?” I asked her, keeping track on my fingers as she counted by threes in her head, finally arriving at eleven. She went to the counter to ask the store clerk if they could hold the wallet for eleven weeks. “No… maybe for one day,” came the answer. But they worked out a deal whereby if Aviva can save and put down $8, the store will let her do a kind of layaway until it’s paid off. Who knows if she’ll remember to do it. I don’t really care; it was just fun watching her conduct her own numbers and negotiations. Then we tried on a bunch of hats and went home.

At home, she set the timer for thirty minutes and turned on a movie, which meant I wouldn’t have to remind her to turn it off (which inevitably leads to the whiney/pleading “Five more minutes? Two? One more?” and makes us both cranky). I settled in to paying bills and tending to some other life management stuff I’ve been avoiding. Next thing I knew, a half hour was up. I heard the stove beeping away, and then finally Aviva saying, “Okay, okay!” to herself and getting up to turn it off. She came into my study to see what I was up to. “Can you please come play with me in my room?” she asked. “Sure, as soon as I’m done filing this stuff,” I told her. At first she was grouchy about this. I asked her if she’d be willing to help me make some new file folder labels. She acquiesced with a huff, got down on her belly on the floor, and started copying the list I’d made for her. At one point, I told her how nice it was to have company, how much faster this was going because of her help. “Well it’s not fun at all!” she said, rather cheerily. Who was she kidding? She had me all to herself – no Pearl, no Greg, no homework, no next. Just us working side by side.

I got in deeper than I had planned. You know that momentum thing that happens when you start purging stuff? Aaahhh. Clearing space. Every now and then it happens, a burst of sorting, organizing, the recycling pile growing to bonfire-like proportions next to me on the floor. When she was finished with her task, she announced that she was DONE with that and left the room. “Hey wait – want these?” I asked her, gesturing at some big pieces of construction paper I’d had folded in a file drawer forever. “No,” she said. Then, “Actually, I changed my mind.” She took the papers and left the room. I heard her rummaging around near her art table in the living room but didn’t look into what she was doing. A little while later, she came back in my study triumphantly. “”MY files!” I looked and saw that she’d folded each of the pieces of construction paper in half and written on the covers:

Silver File

Do Not Enter

Aviva Strong

“Oh,” I observed. “You have your own files now.” I paused, then said, “Well, I won’t look in them because they say ‘Do Not Enter.'” She looked a little disappointed, then said, “Well you can look in them once, but then never again after that.” So I did. Each one had a small assortment of writing journals, small books, and chapter books.

Meanwhile, I was digging deep into the exploding files recording Aviva’s every potty trip in preschool, realizing that the vast majority of this stuff could be recycled. Here she was after all, potty trained. Did we really need evidence of the process having occurred years earlier? “Oooh,” she exclaimed, noticing the stacks of drawings and paintings I had had filed away of hers. “Oh, Mama, look at what a bad picture this is!” I asked her if it was important to her to keep all this stuff, if she thought someday she might want to go back and look at any of it. “Not really,” she answered. Then she considered it a little more and suggested, “How ’bout I just keep it in my room and decide?” And just like that, her life was her own, the memorabilia hers to to let go of or to hold onto.

And it just kept going like that, our afternoon, until her girlfriend from up the street called to say she was home and did Aviva want to play? Which of course she did. I spent a bit longer sorting, selecting a handful of her pictures and words to tuck away, recycling the rest.

And now there is that much more space. Space for her to keep showing me who she is. Space for her to choose what to keep, what to grow out of or into. Space for me to breathe, ask her questions, show up and connect instead of making assumptions and judgments, being a packrat who hoards the past and fears the future. Space to pause after a flurry of activity, feeling lighter just knowing there’s less paper in this room, less evidence of so many ideas and moments rendered obsolete by the very movement of time, the movement of time that can either wash me away, eroding all ground, or carry me along, if only I let myself flow.

5 thoughts on “Clearing Space

  1. Cheryl says:

    Really nice, Jena. How do we ever keep up with that moving wave of critical/obsolete/critical without that grace you paint such a clear picture of?


  2. Karen Maezen Miller says:

    It does both: washes and carries. It does everything. Washing the stones, scattering the clouds, gushing forth.

    Room for everything when you let it all go.



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