My mother was one of THOSE mothers. The ones whose children were always in the cutest handmade Halloween costumes, every little detail attended to. And, then, it was her grandkids. She was THAT grandma; the one who dropped her grandkids off at school with perfectly combed hair, cute pigtails for the girls. She was also THAT mom/grandma who was always the first to volunteer for the class parties, the fundraisers, and was on the PTO, often as president.
I am not that mom. I am the one who notices that her six year-old hasn’t seen a comb for over 24 hours; about the time she is up front at church for the children’s moment. Fundraisers? No time! Can’t I just write you a check? Costumes, store bought – purchased last minute. It is times like these when I really miss mom, like a gaping hole in my soul. I can’t fill her shoes and would not want to.
And this oddly enough brings us to Box Tops, yes, School Box Tops. My mother always diligently collected box tops. First, it was for my son’s school. Once we chose to homeschool, it was for the school my husband is principal at. She would move through our kitchen and rip every box top she could find, cut them to perfection, and dutifully ship them off to school. It was something more akin to a storm. Suddenly, none of our cereal boxes would close. Big gapping holes would be missing out of our Ziploc boxes. Food we hadn’t even opened yet would have entire labels ripped off. It was as though the Tasmanian devil had taken a trip through our kitchen.
Once she passed away, the Box Top storm ceased to exist. Like so many things that my mother represented, it just faded out of our lives. Boxes annoyingly kept their tops, cereals consistently stayed closed. There were no more gapping holes. Everything was tidy and orderly.
The Homeschool Enrichment program my children attend has volunteer hours that all parents are required to fill. I actually work the Tuesday they are in this program so many of these jobs are impossible for me to do. As a solution, this year, I was given the Box Top Coordinator job. I collect, and prepare the box tops. Twice a year, I submit them and they give money to our school program.
Grief is not linear. It ebbs and flows and sometimes rushes at you in the strangest ways. Today as I was cutting box tops other parents had dropped in the donation box, I suddenly felt very close to my mother. I giggled about her Box Top obsession. And it hit me; I hadn’t gone through my kitchen yet. I went through that kitchen like a storm. The Honey Nut Cheerios will no longer close. The Ziploc box has gapping holes in its side. Food items that we had not even opened yet are missing labels.
My mom was with me in my kitchen today. Grief is a strange thing. It can leave you crying and laughing, memories producing extremes of both sadness and joy – all at the same time.