Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hole in the Head

"Cute bag," I said to Faith as she swung a messenger bag over her head. The bag bore a charming cityscape design in blue and black; my favorite colors.

"You gave it to me, Mommy," she said. She placed the bag across her body and I watched as it settled at just the right place, easily accessible by a hand reaching for a wallet.

"I did?" I starred at the perfect Timbuk2 bag that would go beautifully with everything in my wardrobe (black t-shirts, blue jeans). Suddenly, I felt as conflicted as a woman who had given up her child for adoption. How could I have let my baby go? But, my dear daughter has it now. Obviously, she cares for it and has given it a good home.

I must've bequeathed it in a weak moment, realizing I already had dozens of backpacks and messenger bags piled up on a closet shelf. And Faith likely had been carrying a purse of her own, one with an opening easily pick-pocketed. Surely, it was a sense of motherly protection that prompted my handing over such an outstanding bag.

Afterward, while still longing for that-which-was-given-away, I pondered my difficulty with relinquishing things. I wouldn't call myself a hoarder; after all, there are no piles of newspapers blocking doorways, or mason jars stacked along basement stairs. But, truth be told (And where else but on a blog could one have a chance to use that phrase?), I do possess a number of collections that cause me to question my state of mind.

I think I'll blame its beginning on my other child, Jill, for it was she who thought it would be good for her mother to start a collection of salt and pepper shakers. Heaven knows why she came to this conclusion; perhaps it was a dark, cold, Chicago February and she worried her mother might launch one of her typical ban-the-blues enterprises.

"Look, Mommy," she had said as she handed me a box. A lift of the lid revealed a dozen pair of miniature people, animals, and objects, all with one or several holes in their heads. "When you're bored [who, me?]," she said, "you can go antique shopping and add more to your collection."

I was delighted. Tasks, goals, what could be better? Carefully, I lined up the Noah's Ark along window sills. Then, I added "scour shops for s&ps" to my To-Do List. For a few Sundays, I performed as a true collector, walked carefully among dusty do-dads (tchotchkes really, but you know me and alliteration), holding my bulky tote at my side to avoid breakage, and selected pairs of s&ps to join the others.

This worked well until the day I realized that dusting every little hand, foot, hat, basket, and whatever of that crew would add hours to my day. Without notifying my well-meaning child, I returned every last one to their original nesting place and stored it on a basement shelf. Of course, I couldn't donate or regift my collection for Jill might label me ungrateful and avoid future presents. So in their box they remain.

Sadly, it didn't stop with the salt-and-pepper shakers. Other hard-to-part-with collections stuff shelves: water bottles, pens, notebooks, sunglasses, knitted caps, and jackets. Each stockpile begins the same way: I seek something that will be perfect for task at hand. A water bottle that can easily be opened with thumb and finger, a pen that smoothly glides across the page, a spiral notebook that opens and lies flat, sunglasses that protect my eyes but make me look movie star-ish, a cap that does not reduce my head to bowling ball appearance, and a jacket perfect for every seasonal temperature.

Soon, each of the above loses its luster. It misrepresented itself. It was clumsy, leaked, bled through, or made me look funny. Into a bin the original goes. Then comes the delightful search and purchase of its replacement, and replacement, and replacement. Somehow, I cannot toss the early ones away. I worry they might wind up in a landfill (even though I couldn't identify or locate one in my neighborhood.) I fear that if I pass it on to someone else, they might not care for it as I believe it deserves. And, in the case of my Timbuk2 bag (just to remind you how all of this started and to bring a satisfying full circle ending), would I regret giving away something that was so perfect for me?

You see my dilemma. Instead of putting myself through all of that angst, I've obviously decided to just hang onto the items purchased. Except of course for that messenger bag that my first born wheedled away from her vulnerable mother. Perhaps I can persuade her to swap it for a different one in my collection? Maybe this one, its blue and black, but lacks a space for a water bottle. Think Faith would go for that?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Come Fly With Me, Or Not

When the 23-year-old terrorist attempted to bring down a passenger jet Christmas Day, he not only shook up the airline industry, but also turned this 71-year-old occasional flyer into a suspect. Because of his deed, airport security now scan passengers' behavior for clues. Those who nervously glance about, or repeatedly open and close their bags are targets for investigation. That’s me!

It's not fear of flying that causes my fidgetiness. Au contraire, once I’m on board and the plane takes off, I’m as relaxed as if I were sunning at the shore. It’s the lead-up to lift off that drives me (and truth be told, all of my loved ones) nutty, and produces the eccentric behavior likely to flag security’s attention.

Prior to Departure Day; I leisurely pack. By leisurely, I mean a week before. The suitcase is in the spare room, open on the bed, and each day I deposit some article of clothing that may or may not make it to final latching. With this leisurely method, and deaf to the derision of my husband who throws things into his suitcase the night before, my luggage is sealed and standing at the front door before the sun rises on D Day.

To further lessen anxiety, I insist on printing out my boarding pass as soon as the clock strikes the allowable time. At home, I make sure my printer is on, a full stack of plain white paper is in the feed, and there is nothing to interrupt the procedure.

If I am out-of-town, and you can confirm this with either of my daughters, I start plaguing them as soon as they have their coffee. “Is the printer on?” I will ask as if I were waiting for my drug fix. “Yes, Mommy,” they will answer, in a voice similar to the one used for their offspring. There have been times when leery of their equipment, I insist on stopping at a Kinko’s to get the job done. (I have already printed out the locations of all Kinko’s in a five-block area.)

When I travel with my husband, we discuss the time we'll leave the house on departure day. This is an amusing exercise as both of us know that no matter the time agreed upon, I'll be sitting at the bottom of the staircase, dressed in my coat, and hand atop the luggage handle 30 minutes before.

I prefer to arrive at the gate a full hour before departure, and seated with my Starbucks coffee and the New York Times. Instead of reading, though, I’m behaving in the exact mode on the terrorist watch list. I frequently rise to check the board that identifies our gate. Sure, it said C12 when we arrived, but perhaps it’s been changed now and we’ll have to make a mad dash to the new gate.

Although I’ve packed my tote with enough snacks, cords, and meds to accommodate an unexpected delay, I’ll unzip and search every 15 minutes to be sure I didn’t just imagine adding Aleve to the pill case.

And once the plane begins boarding, although I may be in Group 4 and they are just on First Class, I rise, pace, and get in the back of the line of Group 3. Husband, of course, prefers to wait until 4 is called, which causes us to separate and meet up in the crowded airplane aisle where I await his hoisting. (My carry-on, not me.)

One may wonder why I continue to fly if the trips cause so much anxiety. But because my daughters have elected to live on either side of the U.S. (Boston and Los Angeles), and if I want to see my grandchildren before they bear children of their own, it’s essential I endure. So if airport security seeks a target for this flyer’s suspicious behavior, you know whom to finger.