As any parent who has had a child go off to college knows, our kids leave a lot behind when they exit our lives. The circumstances of that exit really don't matter, ultimately --their stuff is still there and has to be dealt with .
I haven't been able to tackle the Bug's room yet; in fact, I still haven't made her bed from the day she died. Can't do it. It's now covered with the hundreds and hundreds of cards and letters from people who cared enough about her -- or about us -- to send a note of condolence. It may be 2012 before I get it cleaned off and I'm OK with that. The door is closed and we'll open it again when that particular wound has scarred over.
But this really isn't about dealing with The Room. More to the point, this is about the stuff our kids leave behind in our dining rooms, family room...and pantries. The management of this "stuff" can be painful and utterly absurd, all at the same time.
You see, I have come to realize that children train us. They train us to buy things. Over and over. I have bought cucumbers and red peppers no fewer than five times since the Bug died. It's automatic. They were the Bug's snackfood of choice for when she got home from school or had the munchies before dinner. I have, for the last eight years, cut the top off of every pepper I use to prepare a meal and set it aside, so she could sneak in and pretend to "steal" them off the cutting board. I probably always will.
There are myriad other things of Kiersten's that so far have remained utterly untouched, as if we're all waiting for her to come home. Her pretty little silver purse is hanging off the back of one of the kitchen chairs. It has $34.82 in it (I swear, that kid had more money than God). We all look at it. We all acknowledge that it needs to be put away. And yet, none of us will touch it, let alone take the money out of it. I have gone so far as to pick it up, and verify that her money is still in there, then replace it on the back of the chair. I know that Mr. Bean and Daisy Mae have done the same. It may sit there forever.
So, too, we are faced with the dilemma of the Untouchable Pickle Jar. The Bug loved pickles. LOVED them. I used to have to restrict her from eating pickles before breakfast and from drinking the pickle juice. (In fact, in my Paranoid Mommy moments, back before the Worst Thing in the World came to pass, I used to indulge perverse waking nightmares of my kid dropping over dead of a heart attack from eating too much salt. Who'd have thought...) In any event, about a week before Thanksgiving, we indulged the Bug and bought her a gallon jar of Vlasic Kosher Dill Spears. She opened the jar the morning she died -- and I think ate several of them before breakfast. Because they were then open, she made room in the fridge for the pickle jar (because pickles, as we know, are always better cold). It might as well be labeled, "Kiersten's Pickles! Keep out!"
So there it sits. A gallon jar takes up a lot of room in the fridge. Daisy Mae has GERD, making pickles strictly verboten. I like pickles well enough, but probably only eat 2-3 per month. But we can neither get rid of the pickle jar, nor can we even open the jar and eat the pickles. They were -- they are -- the Bug's pickles.
I hope that I can report back later that I have managed to return from the grocery store and not opened the bag, found red peppers and cucumbers, and said "WTF?". I also hope that I will have retained a small handful of pickles from the jar, to keep for making tuna salad and the like, and that I have removed the jar from the fridge.
But I can't make any promises.