We teasingly called my mom “the bag lady” because she brought bags of stuff wherever she went. Her little car was always filled with bags. I called them her “in case” bags. Some held blankets in case she got stranded somewhere. Some held shoes in case the ones she was wearing hurt her feet. Some held a change of clothes “just in case she needed them” and some bags held books in case she got bored.
The problem was that whenever I gave a party, my mom was always the first to arrive with her arms full of bags. Into my clean house she’d come, set down her bags, and unload them into my living room.
The bags’ contents were as eclectic as she was and I never knew what weird thing would come out. There were usually articles cut from newspapers that she thought I should read and old things found in her home that she thought I should have. By the time she was done unloading, my house looked like her car; chaotic and littered with piles of STUFF.
And, it drove me crazy.
I often threw everything she’d brought away or into my donation box as soon as she went home. With three kids, a husband, and myself, we had quite enough stuff of our own and I didn’t want to be burdened with her weird things on top of it all.
Shortly before she became ill, my mom arrived early for a baby shower I was giving. In her arms she carried a battered box filled with crumpled newspaper. “Here,” she said, “These are for you.” I was immediately annoyed. What had she brought me this time?
I unwrapped the first piece of clumsily wrapped newspaper. Nestled inside was one of her china cups and saucers. For as far back as I can remember, anyone who visited mom’s messy home was treated to a hot cup of tea served in a china cup. My friends loved this tradition. My mom always remembered each guest’s favorite cup and saucer and she would serve them their tea in their cup (Mom thought matching sets of china were boring, instead she had a mismatched set collected from ancestors, friends and family).
As I continued unwrapping, I realized that she had brought me every single cup and saucer from her cupboard. And, even though the party was starting and I now had newspapers strewn everywhere, I felt my annoyance slip away. My mom had a hard time saying, “I love you” but, she showed it every time she brought her crumpled bags into my home.
I have a tiny kitchen now and my cupboard space is very limited. But, one whole section of it is filled with her cups and saucers and every time I open the doors it’s like hearing my mom say, “I love you.” And, that makes me smile.
A few weeks ago, I was the first to arrive at a party at my daughter’s house. I had tote bags in my arms filled with things I thought would make her party go a little smoother and I began to unload them on her counter. And, then it hit me with a jolt that I am my mother’s daughter.
I just hope that my daughter will realize sooner than I did that the mess I am creating in her home is really me saying “I love you.”
Who in your life is saying “I love you” in weird and wonderful ways?