Letting Go Of The Past
All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding
-- Havelock Ellis
Letting go of the past is often made difficult by the visions you hold of it, the tokens you keep about you, the emotional charge that is contained in past upsets and often by the fact that you carry with you false images. You can imagine, or believe, or convince yourself that something was one way when the actual truth of it was quite the opposite.
Letting go of the past is vital because having your attention on the past keeps you out of present time. It ties up your attention, your energy and your life force.
Lessons From A Lavender Angel
Into Every Child's Life Should Come - A Lavender Angel
I remember the first time I was ever left alone with the responsibility of looking after my younger siblings. Mum announced that she and dad were going out and that I was going to babysit while they were gone. Fear punched me in the gut as what if’s rolled about in my head as randomly as when my younger brother dropped his marble bag. I know I couldn’t have been that old because my youngest brother was still a baby and I turned eleven years old seven months less three days after he was born. He was still a little baby and the fear diminished a tad when my mother told me that they would be taking “the baby” with them. That left my other brother who would have been seven and my sister who had recently had her second birthday. So I would have been about ten and a half,ten and a half and terrified. I remember nothing of looking after my siblings that day but I do remember watching out the living room window as my parents drove off with my stomach firmly lodged in my throat and tears not meant to be shed burning hot behind my eyes. The weight of the responsibility crushed me into a dot and whatever happened that day after that point is outside the confines of my conscious memory.
It was a freezing cold day in early December, just three weeks past my twelfth birthday. We lived in the northern town of Prince George, British Columbia and as always at that time of year the ground was buried waist high in snow and the mercury was planted well below freezing. It was by no means the first time I had babysat my three siblings. My parents had gone to a party at the only decent hotel in town the night before and I had made dinner for all of us, got the two younger ones bathed, read all three of them a story before getting them off to bed and turning in myself. The young ones woke up early and I had a plan. Usually when my parents had been out to a party my mother would drag her tired self downstairs, her hair still up in a French Roll and wrapped in a towel. Clad only in her housecoat she would throw Cheerios in a cup to give the two younger children so they would be kept busy in their beds giving her time to catch a little more sleep. But of greater motivation to my formulating a plan was the fact that my mother was always angry with me after I had taken care of the children – always, without exception. Tomorrow morning things would be different, I promised myself as I drifted off to sleep.
In the morning I dressed quietly, got each of us the prescribed cup of dried Cheerios and convinced my eldest brother to get dressed as quickly and as quietly as he could so we could surprise mum and dad. I literally stuffed the two youngsters into their snowsuits, put the idiot mittens on over their chubby little fingers and crammed their feet into snow boots. I helped my nine year old brother get ready and then got into my own snow pants, jacket and all that went with it. Quietly we stole from the house, and without so much as a glance back off we went into the freezing cold morning, cutting a path through the snow. For two hours we trudged about our neighbourhood and beyond. Finally, when the little ones could literally stand no more we headed for home with my brother and me half carrying; half dragging the two smaller ones.
Into the warm air of the house we all trooped, each of us relieved to be home. There, in the kitchen stood my parents, both of them dressed in the clothes they had worn the night before. As I helped the two youngest out of their winter garb I excitedly explained to my parents how I had got everybody ready and kept them out of the house so that they could sleep in. Even seeing them in their same clothes didn’t register with me, so proud I was at having executed my plan. And then she told me, “We didn’t come home last night, we got a room at the hotel.” I felt so deflated, all that effort, all that I had put the two little ones through and for what? – Nothing.
I was ecstatic, for the first time in my memory my mother and I were going somewhere together just the two of us. She could have told me we were going to the garbage dump and I would have been every bit as excited. This is exactly the opportunity I had wished for my mum would finally get to see me, would get to know me and things would change forevermore. The big day arrived and so did we, at the church hall. It was bustling with ladies and teenage girls who I also viewed as “all grown up”. I was the only child there. My mother sat me at a table covered with a starched white cloth after I had chosen a cookie from amongst the many baked goods that were offered. I sat at the table, in my Sunday dress, alone with my cookie and my “Mother Goose” tea watching my mother as she worked her way around the room looking at the homemade baking and Christmas decorations that lay atop a number of tables as she chatted with this woman and that. Two times that whole afternoon she spoke to me, once when I picked out the cookie and she showed me where to sit and once just before we went home. She took me to look at the tables, not so covered with baking and decorations now. I saw a number of things that I would have liked but she led me to one table in particular and told me I could pick out a small plastic doll. I had seen them earlier as I we had passed by on the way to “my table” and had admired the colours, particularly a soft mint green. All that were left now were adorned in either yellow or lavender. The doll I selected was wearing a knitted lavender dress trimmed with tinsel and on her back tinfoil wings were pinned - a lavender angel . Her golden brown hair was adorned with a tinsel halo. “I’d like this”, I said. My mum paid for the doll and we left.
A couple of months before my eighteenth birthday I left home with $450.00 in my bank account and rented an apartment on my own. I took the lavender angel with me. When I packed up my apartment to move to a bigger one after I had been working for a while, she came with me again. And again when I got married and again when we got our first house, and then our second house when my oldest was two. She came with me when I packed up after a divorce and moved again with my daughter and young son. Into a new relationship she came, another child, another move. Each time I packed and unpacked I would spend a few minutes sitting with my lavender angel and remembering the day my mum spent time with just me. My eldest daughter, having graduated university was working and had purchased a lovely condo. My son was away at university and my youngest had two years to go in high school, one last move.
This time, as I was packing up years of living, raising a family and running two businesses I found myself, yet again, sitting with my lavender angel. Everything about her was the same as the day I got her except for the fact that her tinsel was tarnished with age. As I once again started ritual trip down memory lane, I tripped. I recognized that while I had long viewed that I kept the lavender angel as a special memento of the afternoon I had spent with my mum it was actually not the case. She was merely a memory of what I wanted it to be, not what it was. Still holding her in my lap as I sat cross-legged on the floor (gee that used to be a lot easier to do) I looked at my experiences with my children throughout their childhoods and found that through the lavender angel I had been to my children the mother I so longed to have. I treated them with respect. I never gave them a moment to doubt that they were loved and cherished. I valued them, appreciated them, admired them and celebrated them. I spent time with them; I thanked them and was thankful for them.
This time instead of packing the lavender angel back in herbox, I put her in a box filled with items for the Salvation Army thriftstore. She had taught me all she had toteach and it was time to let her go. Whoknows, maybe there is a mother out there somewhere, with a young daughter whowill find the little lavender angel and whose life will be made richer for it!
Letting go doesn’t mean giving up, but rather accepting that there are
things that cannot be.
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