Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Yellow Jacket

Holidays are tough for me and Mother's Day is coming.  Sometimes I can feel very lonely, whether it is a day spent by myself because my family is far away or if it a day spent in a room full of people--even people I love.  Sometimes holidays can feel like a reminder of what was lost in terms of hopes and dreams--for myself and my parents.  There can be sense of failure.

Last summer before I moved from Pittsburgh, I spent time purging to lighten the load to pack.  Overall, it felt really good and freeing.  There was a bunch of stuff that I gave to my mom to pass along to my goddaughter.  I figured she would appreciate it more than sitting in my closet or on a shelf collecting dust.  It felt good.

Then a few weeks ago my mom forwarded me a picture of my godchild, O~.  She was wearing my yellow spring jacket that I had as a small child.  My mom explained that when my cousins came for Easter, the girls wanted to go outside, but it had grown chilly and O~ didn't bring a coat.  So, my mom went into the closet and found the jacket and offered it to her to wear.  It fit her well and she wore it home.  In fact, she enjoyed the coat so much, my mom said she could keep wearing it.  The picture my mom sent over the phone was of O~ and LJ going for a walk in the woods in a park near their home.

But somehow this picture did not elicit the same feelings of when I gave O~ the Teacher Barbie and children's books.  My heart was sad, and then I felt guilty.  My mom had always said that she saved some of my old clothes because she thought that when I had children that maybe they could wear some of them.  What was once something I imagined would be for my children, was now being worn by someone else's child.  And I cried.  But, I did not let my mom know.  I didn't have the heart to tell her.  She was so excited and happy to share that O~ loved the coat and was so proud to be wearing it.

I mean, I had given pause in the summer when I gave my mom some of my stuff to give to O~, but that stuff didn't seem to have as much meaning.  The children's books were kind of a helpful reduction in the mass of books I had collected for my classroom library.  In fact, I told my mom to share with my cousins that if there were any books that they didn't really like, to just give them away.  The Teacher Barbie was something A~ gave to me as a Christmas present when we were in undergrad together.  I went back and forth on that one.  It spoke to my roots in teaching, but I kept thinking about him when I saw it.  I figured O~ would have more fun playing with it. 

But, what I had held back was a little pearl necklace.  I don't remember how old I was when my parents gave it to me, but I do remember feeling like it was one of my first real pieces of jewelry.  It is a kid's version and not real, but it was close enough as a kid.  I went back and forth.  Why should it just sit in a jewelry box when O~ could probably enjoy it?  But the nagging thought was, what if I have a little girl someday and I want to give it to her?  Would I regret giving it to O~?  If I gave it to her, would that be giving up on my dream of being a mother?  Would I be giving something away in haste and later have regret?

Somehow the yellow jacket had more meaning for me, too.  I think it goes back to how items of clothing can carry so much more meaning for some people.  And even though the jacket was mine as a child, was it mine to give away?  This jacket really belongs to my mom and it is really for her to decide in some ways, I think, maybe.  So if that is the case, what does that mean?  Has my mom given up the dream that I will have a child someday?  Has my mom given up the dream that she will have a grandchild?  I thought that coat was special.  Maybe it doesn't carry as much meaning as I thought it did for my mom?  Or maybe her intent is that O~ can borrow it and then return it when she grows out of it?

I don't know.  I just know that I feel terribly upset about it, and I feel incredibly guilty and selfish for feeling sad about it.  My heart hurts in so many different ways.  And in the picture O~ just looks so happy and like she is having fun wearing the jacket.  How can I feel so sad when it makes O~ and my mom so happy?  At least I know that by my cousin taking a picture of O~ wearing the coat and sending it to my mom she knows it is important, has meaning and will take care of it.


  1. I completely went through this with several items that I had "saved" for my future child. For years they sat in a closet, away from my view, so they didn't hurt my feelings. I couldn't stand looking at them, and when my sister in-law had her daughter, I took one of the items out and gave it to her (because it was girly). As much as it broke my heart, I did it. It was almost like admitting defeat. It felt like I was finally saying, "Ok. Children aren't in my playbook so I need to get rid of these reminders." Three days later, we found out about our son. Keep the things that are truly important to you (like the pearls). Even if you never have a daughter, you may have a niece or a granddaughter (God willing) some day who would love to have them! Think of the yellow jacket as a loaner. If it was in such great shape after all of these years, it will still be in great shape if you are blessed with a daughter. You will get it back, believe me! You will be inundated with all of the clothing you'll ever need and you will enjoy seeing your own daughter wearing it.

    I know you hurt and this is a horrible time of year and an extremely painful holiday. I won't tell you to focus on your OWN mom, because people told me that and it didn't help. I still wallowed in my own pain every year and distanced myself from those that didn't understand, which was just about everyone. If you are fortunate enough to have some good childless friends down there, go out to eat and spend time with them. Do something FUN, even though you don't feel like it. Remember that I'm thinking of you and certainly praying that this is the last of your painful Mother's Days. :)

    1. I know this is a late reply, but I just wanted to say thank you so much for you thoughtful and heartfelt response. Thank you for getting it and pointing out that the yellow coat could always return, which crossed my mind. But, I know I can't hold onto everything and cannot expect my mom to do the same. I like the idea of holding onto those things that seem truly important. I guess part of me did not want to pass on an opportunity to give the pearls to someone who I know would appreciate them, but there will be other little girls down the road who may also like them just as much. Part of me would feel sad if something like the pearls never found a home, too, if that makes sense. The question is sometimes how long? But, I appreciate your thoughts that there is no rush, there is still many ways. Thank you!

  2. In a small drawer, in my mother's house, there are three little dresses that I wore as a child. I have a niece, who I adore, and if one day she has a little girl, they will go to her. I know just how you feel. We have MF IF, but I am now 44. Recently, we have a little cousin who has come to the U.S. from Spain, and we are all in love with him. He is 3. When I told my sister in law that my niece and I "plotted" to steal him away, she once responded, better to leave it to my niece. My niece is now 20. It was a passing remark, to indicate that she my niece would have more energy... but it was also a remark to let me know that the ship of having a child has passed for me. It hurt me immensely. The assumption by others, which I have heard more than once, that this is no longer possible for me hurts terribly, even if I am half way towards accepting my life without biological children of my own.

    1. Thank you for sharing that moment of your life with me. I am sorry that you had to feel that hurt more than once, especially while you are in the process of finding acceptance and/or resolve with your loss. When the biological child possibility is taken off the table, it is a deep pain. When I had been married, he had MF IF and we would not have been able to have children. Now that the relationship is (sadly) over, children are *kind of* back on the table for me. But, that involves finding a partner and all of the other steps along the way before children could really be considered. In some ways I can relate to your pain, but in others I cannot. But that is how it goes, we each have our own story, our own journey. Thank you for your words of support.