Jenna’s “Out!” Campaign

Note: I wrote this piece in August, 2013, about Jenna, my youngest, a few weeks before she moved into her own apartment. 

Image of colorful care package from Jenna's "Out!" Campaign, by Beth Mende ConnyNear tears. I would be in tears, but Jenna, my youngest, will be awake soon, and little girls don’t like to see mommies cry, it throws them off, scares them. But mommies do cry, and though she is still my little girl, she’s soon to be 19.

She’s home for the summer and conducting her own “Out!” campaign. She’s excavating closets and drawers and clearing shelves of knick-knacks. Gone are the posters of musicians she wouldn’t dare admit she once liked.

This laundry basket is one of many she has filled with valuables that have lost their value to her. But for me, each tells a story, is a phase, a broad swath of life that was her childhood.

She doesn’t remember that silly little purple pillow she had to have, the wreaths of beads that made her feel like a grownup. The hair dryer and straightener that were as essential to her as her high school calculator. The stuffed animals we bought for various graduations, tags still on. She has grown beyond the memories; she’s entitled to this, her passage.

Oh, but there’s her starry blue bathrobe, so soft to the touch. I remember wrapping it in Christmas paper and thinking, “She’s going to love this.” And she did. And I have photos to prove it. On the couch, at the table, on the floor — there she is, wrapped in stars and puffy clouds. It is the only thing in this basket she has, literally, outgrown.

And now I’m crying because I remember how it draped over my knees when she curled into my lap. I remember wrapping my arms around her waist as I pulled her to me, into me. This is one memory I will not give away. This one belongs to me.

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