| Windows |

Finding My Footing   

      I didn’t know where to put the emotions, and so I put them, and those envelopes, away for another time


was sure that the house on Prairie Avenue would always be there for me. My parents were safely ensconced in the walls that held the treasure trove of my memories, and it gave me a feeling of solidness I didn’t even know was there. Until they decided it was time to move on and put up their house for sale.

We came to visit and there were piles of boxes on their porch, empty bookshelves. Picture albums and old certificates lined the floor of their garage, and boxes of kitchen items cluttered the surfaces. My children took a few last toys and games from the playroom, and poked in curiosity at the box of home videos and cassette tapes, relics from another era.

Visiting my parents on Sundays started to become hard for me, as I watched the physical contents of my childhood home rounded up and boxed. The big glass table in my parents’ dining room was there one visit and gone the next. The paintings and furniture that I’d grown up with were put up for sale on chats and carted away. I told myself that I was lucky, so lucky, that my parents are still alive and healthy, that they were doing this now and not leaving it to be taken care of by others later.

But it was still hard.

One day, about a month before the move, my mother handed me two stuffed manilla envelopes with my name scribbled on them in permanent red marker. I began pulling out a literal paper trail of my childhood. Doctors’ notes and uniform order receipts from 1995, every report card, award, or progress note she’d ever gotten for me. Letters I’d written to my parents from camp, numerous Mother’s Day cards, and kindergarten drawings. It was intense. I pulled out a small envelope with the name of a salon on it, and my mother’s handwritten note, “first haircut.” Bracing myself, I opened it up, and sure enough, there were blond wisps of my own hair from 35 years ago.

I felt guilty. For growing up? For not being that sweet little toddler (long awaited after three boys) anymore? Or maybe guilty that as a mother myself, I certainly haven’t kept any of my children’s hair. Ridiculous, of course my mother didn’t want me to be that baby anymore. And I live in a small space, I can’t save everything from my kids.

But holding that envelope in my hands, something of mine that she’d cared enough to save, and then looking at my own sweet, blonde toddler, I could almost feel the slippery grains of time rushing through my fingers. I didn’t know where to put the emotions, and so I put them, and those envelopes, away for another time.

I told myself it’s just stuff, just walls, just things. The memories aren’t gone. I’ll be okay and so will my parents, as they navigate this next stage in life. And yet there was a wrenching sense of loss.

Moving day loomed ever closer on the horizon, and I felt like some sort of foundation had cracked and shifted beneath me while I scrambled to find my footing.

Then something happened that actually did make me lose my footing. Literally. I finally made it to a long-procrastinated visit to the podiatrist’s office for some moderate foot pain. I sat on the exam table and expected him to say I needed better shoes, maybe to wear orthotics for a little while. He looked at my foot, paused, and then said we needed to take an X-ray.

Pointing to the grey and black film, he showed me a thin white crack and explained that I either had a fracture or an extra bone that got irritated. As if on cue, his nurse came into the room holding a huge CAM boot, and before I knew it, I was hobbling to my car, blinking back the tears. The first day or two in my new boot felt like I was wearing a heavy rollerblade on my foot that I wasn’t allowed to take off. I felt slow and heavy and plodding. I walked with my kids to a neighbor’s house on Shabbos, one foot after the other, feeling the way my hips were angled unevenly and how the boot landed too heavily on the ground. One of my kids forgot about the boot and asked me to speed up. I reminded her that this is as fast as I go.

After those first few tough days, a funny thing happened. The boot started to become me, and I became the boot. Even lengthier walks stopped feeling so hard, and I moved with a clippity-clop rhythm all my own. One day I found myself in a large supermarket, all but cruising down the aisle. I couldn’t help but whip out my phone and send a quick text to my friend: I’m totally rocking this boot.

It definitely still feels annoying at times, and I’m hoping to get out of it soon, but I feel like I’ve picked up a new stride.

We went for one of our last Sunday visits to my parents’ house this past week. I saw the next pile of items to be donated and discarded and looked at the bare walls. I braced myself for that familiar squeezing feeling deep in my chest (heart?). Then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that change is okay. Hashem created us with the ability to adapt. I’ll once again find my footing and my parents will find theirs.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 882)

Oops! We could not locate your form.