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Putting it All Away

It was recently my sons birthday. He's got a great one. A build up to the holidays. It representing a time of reflection. Of his youth, mine, our family, how much his soul has changed my life. Watching him grow and thrive year after year. From conception to now a vibrant child who swings from moment to moment. Like a tiny super hero. As if on a web. How he has enhanced everything in his path and in mine on every spiritual and cellular level. Like magic. His love like a super power. A connection I never knew I always longed for. Every dream and hope now deepening. No longer only living for myself, now living for him.

A protection growing in me that seems like a warrior strength. A Spidey sense. Feeling myself placing an imaginary neon force field around him like kryptnonite to anything harmful. Disabling any negativity that approaches him. Or wrapping him up in my thick, cushioned protective web. Trapping him away from any harm.


As I packed for the trip, my father calls asking what my son would want for his birthday. A nice gesture. Visions of my own childhood seeping in. My own disconnect from this father who I can tell desperately wants to be a part of my son's life, in a way he never was in mine. Recognizing he has moments of regret sprinkled with the reality he may not be capable of the deep contact he wishes for. I still appreciate the attempt.


I mentioned a couple of ideas. He responds in the usual “A-ha’s” continuing far after I finish speaking. Reminding me he’s not listening. Not present. Until the phone grows uncomfortably silent. As I wait for him to rejoin me in the current moment. When he does, he suggests, “Why don’t you order the gift. Since you have a prime account.”


"Yeah. No problem.” I say. Still appreciating the attempt. A voice inside reminding me its the best he can do. Still, after all these years, a tinge of disappointment wrapped in a yearning for something more.


Then, before we hang up, he states, “Make sure you wrap it.”


"Sure." I say. With a smirk of predictability.


I continue packing, putting things away. Haunted by the residual disconnect of the phone call. Like a ghost that may be invisible but never really leaves. Feeling mostly only detached. A familiar emptiness. The loud, palpable emotional distance. Even looming in a call to ask what he can get my son. Anguished with the reality of his loneliness as I pack for my family. Unsure if it bothers him. Feeling a tinge of resentment bubble as I place item after item into my bag. Also saddened things couldn’t be different. Realizing they never will be.


We ran away to the desert to celebrate. I unpacked the car. His gifts, the decorations for his actual birthday, our food, our clothes. Setting up his zoom spot for school the following day. A nook at the table with his computer, notebooks and pens. As I hear his little feet running through the house around me. The invisible force field in my mind wrapping around him once again. I carry on. Putting it all way.


I get a text. My dad. Making sure I got and wrapped the gift.


Yeah. Did. I reply.


A tinge annoyed at the typical blunt communication. Part of me grateful the contact was short. A part of me yearning for something more. I put my phone on the bed and bring my son's gifts to the closet, to keep them hidden until the big day. I catch the irony. Putting things away to hide them. In my hands, a wrapped gift, in my chest, a deep lull. The vast range of emotion. A celebration and a sadness. The memories, the pain, the loneliness, the secrecy. The wanting something more. Then, putting it all away. Hidden. Keeping them locked away from my son along with his gifts.


Trying to decipher why exactly I keep it all hidden, why I put it all away. Is it shame? Embarrassment? Is it protecting my son from the harsh truth? Intense feelings? Sparing his? Is it me carrying the childhood fear that no one would want to know? No one would understand? Struggling with understanding on my own. I notice I am hiding myself at the same time. I continue putting things away.


Placing a Spiderman gift bag on the highest shelf here in the closet. With the skeletons. Behind the closed doors. In the darkness. Stuffed along with my emotions. Thinking if I keep everything locked away, put away, I might fend off the destiny I still fear surrounding me that I am alone. That familiar emptiness that haunts me. Like a ghost that may be invisible but never really leaves.

I pull out the decorations.The balloons and Pokemon birthday streamers. Catching the reflecting glare of the desert sun through the window against my wedding band. Recognizing the reality of where I am and why I am here. In the closet. In the desert.


I now have the family I used to fantasize about. No longer deserted. No longer the lonely girl who wouldn’t share her secrets or dreams. Now living them. Celebrating the birth of her son. Her own family. Wanting to protect them. Surrounded by touch. By need. A neglected girl once ignored. Now the nucleus of my own family dynamic. An existence I never knew with him. My father. I hear my son’s bare feet running down the tiled hallway.


I carry on. Putting the rest of the birthday decorations away. High up on the shelf. Along with those secrets and fear. The echo of his little feet continue. Knowing they will soon find me. The little feet that live such a different life than mine. Knowing he will not need in the same way I did. He will not experience the same reality. Who will never go unnoticed or hungry. The little feet that need their mother as much as I ached for mine. My feelings changing to a gratitude that I am here. Putting things away. Seeing the beauty that I get to be. Imagining that protective force field. Surrounding myself with that cushioned web. Knowing I am a part of his life. Present. In a way I wished my father was. In a way he can't. In a way I get to be. With my own flesh and blood. Celebrating the day he was born.


I allow all the insecurities to rise within this closet. All the doubt and fear hiding in the darkness with the skeletons and birthday gifts. Letting the child in me yearn, the mother in me to guard, the pride in me to beam, the fear in me morph into love. I stand here, hearing the little feet approach. Feeling all the emotions and appreciating the chance to put them all away.

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Josie L James
Josie L James
Nov 30, 2020

Thank you Leila and Deb! Love you guys. Xoxo

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Oh my Jojo. This is a slice of vulnerability that feed me the fineness and fullness of the gift that is your mindful motherhood. For son, yes. And all at once and most important and most beautiful, for self. A magnificent and also hard reflection of your survival and evolution to the dreams you worked so hard to make your life. Your truth. I love your stories. They touch my soul. Love you.

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Happy Birthday to your beautiful baby boy. Xo

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